An FFP mask (Filtering Facepiece Particles, also called respiratory protection mask) is a type of protective mask certified by the European Union that serves to protect against particulates such as dust particles and various viruses in the air. EN 149 standard defines three classes of filter efficiency for these masks, namely FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. It is an example of a mechanical filter respirator.
This Mask is a half-face mask, which means that it protects the chin, nose and mouth. The mask must meet certain standards and effectiveness tests. Efficacy is assessed by the filtration rate (filter penetration, also referred to as efficiency), as well as degree of leakage around edges. Mask should be correctly adjusted to the face.
This type of mask, unlike surgical mouth mask, protects the wearer from inhaling infectious agents or pollutants in the form of aerosols, droplets, or small solid particles.
It is the least filtering mask out of three.
Aerosol filtration percentage: 80% minimum.
Internal leak rate: Maximum 22%.
It is mainly used as a dust mask (for example for DIY jobs). Dust can cause lung diseases, such as silicosis, anthracnose, asbestosis and siderose (in particular dust from coal, silica, iron ore, zinc, aluminum or even cement).
Manufacturers use yellow elastic bands to identify this type.
Aerosol filtration percentage: Not less than 94%.
Internal leak rate: Maximum 8%.
This mask offers protection in various areas such as the glass industry, foundry, construction, pharmaceutical industry and agriculture. It effectively stops powdered chemicals. This mask can also serve as protection against influenza viruses such as avian influenza or severe acute respiratory syndrome associated with the coronavirus (SARS), as well as against the bacteria of pneumonic plague and tuberculosis.
Manufacturers use white or blue elastic bands to identify this type.
An FFP3 mask with an exhalation valve.
Aerosol filtration percentage: Not less than 99% for EN 149-FFP3. And 99.95% for EN 143-P3.
Internal leak rate: Maximum 2%
The FFP3 mask is the most filtering of the FFP masks. It protects very fine particles such as asbestos and ceramic. It does not protect against gases and in particular nitrogen oxide.
Manufacturers use red elastic bands to identify this type.
The masks can be equipped with an exhalation valve to improve comfort while breathing. Thanks to exhalation that passes through a valve, the moisture contained in exhaled air condenses less in the mask and is less likely to settle in the filter. It prevents filter from becoming less permeable and unpleasant to wear. However, addition of a valve carries risk of malfunctioning. With this, a valve increases the risk of infiltration of the virus or toxic dust. For FFP3, use of a valve is preferable because it has very thick filter layers, which makes breathing difficult. Therefore, most of these masks are offered with an integrated valve.
Mask should be as close to the face as possible; a metal tab makes it possible to adjust the mask to bridge of nose. A beard is not recommended and the elastics should be shortened by a button for young children.
As a protection against infectious diseases, it is only effective in combination with frequent and effective hand washing. Hands should be washed thoroughly before putting on the mask. Mask should not be touched during use (or hands should be washed immediately). Mask should be replaced when wet. It should be removed by taking it from the back without touching front of the mask and then throwing it into a suitable closed container before washing hands again.
In March 2020, at the time of the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands, due to the scarcity of mouth masks the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) published a (brief) advice on how to sterilize and reuse FFP masks that were originally certified for single use.
FFP masks must meet certain standards. To qualify as FFP, the masks must meet the EN 149 standard.
EN 149 standard.
This European standard, first version of which dates from 2001, establishes the minimum characteristics of respiratory protection equipment. It includes laboratory tests, field tests and certain requirements to ensure the conformity of the masks. Following points are analyzed:
Presence of a valve can be indicated by the letter V. The letters S or L respectively specify the filtration of solid or liquid dust.
Masks manufactured before the new standard was taken into account may still have the old marking.
FFP respirators are considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here is the disclaimer that should appear on every mask :
Marking must comply with Directive 89/686 / EEC on PPE. If any of these entries are missing, Mask will be considered non-compliant.