Can FFP masks be reused?

What is a FFP?

The term FFP has been widely used along with the term N95 respirator when talking about medical PPE on the news. The truth is, FFP is an acronym meaning ‘filtering facepiece’, but when talking about FFP masks, people can be referring to two different meanings.

In the more general meaning, a filtering facepiece, as the name suggests, refers to any particulate respirator in which the filter material is an integral part of the mask (the facepiece), or if the entire mask is made of a filtering material. The main difference with other respirators being that the mask and the filter media are not two separate things.

In this general description of FFP masks, filtering facepieces refer to negative-pressure particulate respirators as well. These are masks in which the air inside the mask during inhalation is negative with respect to the air on the outside of the face mask. This negative pressure is produced when the wearer inhales.

Filtering facepieces are used widely to protect workers from inhaling harmful particles which can include dust, smoke, metals, and bioaerosols like the flu virus or the new novel coronavirus. When inhaled, these particles, known as respiratory hazards, can be detrimental to the worker’s health. These types of masks, like N95 respirators, are regulated and certified by NIOSH.

The other meaning of FFP refers to the standards used for protective respirators by the countries that are part of the European Union. The acronym still means filtering facepiece, but in this context, it’s referring to a set of standards used in European countries to regulate their respirators, as well as the types of respirators described in them. The EN 149 standard includes three classes of respirators according to their filtering efficiency: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3.

These standards are considered equivalent to the standards used in other countries.  For example, the NIOSH standards in the United States, and the GB standards in China. Inside the FFP standard, there are respirators equivalent to N95 masks and KN95 masks, which are the FFP2 masks.

The classification for FFP masks is based on their aerosol filtration percentage and internal leak rate. FFP1 masks filter out a minimum of 80% aerosols and have a leak rate of a maximum of 22%. FFP2 masks have an aerosol filtration percentage of 94% or more, with a leakage rate of 8%. FFP3 masks can filter 99% or more of the aerosols in the air, with a maximum of 2% leakage.

N95 masks: are they FFPs?

N95 masks are respirators that are considered the best disposable face mask for virus protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their antiviral properties are higher than those found in surgical or medical face masks. They can be worn with face shields to increase protection, and some of the most popular models include 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8210 and 3M 8511 models. They’ve been prioritized for healthcare workers to fight the coronavirus pandemic due to their high effectiveness to filter out viruses.

The name N95 comes from the classification for respirators set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH. This institution, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regulates respirators as part of their efforts to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries inside the USA.

This classification, like the FFP one, groups and names respirators based on two different characteristics: oil resistance and percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy. The first one is indicated with a letter, which can be N, for not resistant, R for somewhat resistant, and P for oil-proof. The second characteristic is a percentage that can be either 95, 99, or 100%.

According to this, N95 respirators are those with no resistance to oil, and that can filter out 95% airborne particles in the environment. This makes them effective for protection against non-oil based airborne particles, including dust, smoke, and the flu virus or the coronavirus. These are harmful particles, considered respiratory hazards in many workplaces.

N95 masks are considered filtering facepieces (in the general meaning of the term) since they mark all the boxes applied to them: they’re a negative pressure respirator and the filtering media is an integral part of the face mask.

Can FFP masks be reused?

When talking about FFP masks as the European standard for classifying respirators, there are two types of masks: filtering facepiece respirators, which are disposable and were the ones described above, and elastomeric respirators, which are reusable.

An elastomeric respirator is also known as reusable-air purifying respirators, and are a type of respirator that uses elastomeric material to seal the mask to the face. The material can be natural or synthetic rubber. This is why they’re reusable, and full-face versions of this face mask protect the eyes as well.

They can be used with a chemical cartridge filter for gases, mechanical filters for particulates, or both at the same time. When used as particulate filters, they’ve been compared to FFP masks and N95 masks, which are disposable.

So, in conclusion, FFP masks are always disposable face masks. Inside the FFP standard for respirators, you can find other types of face masks like the elastomeric respirators, which are reusable.

There are plenty of options for sale online to be used as face-coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, which you can buy in bulk or wholesale, and that comes in a smaller size for kids as well. Remember that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep themselves protected to stop the spread of this deathly virus.

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