What is the difference between FFP masks and N95 masks?

With the new normal set-up, countries from around the world have developed mask mandates. Mask mandates force their people to wear masks in public. This is in response to the recommendation of medical experts; considering masks as people’s first line of defense against coronavirus. Wearing masks in public is essential when social/physical distancing is neither present nor observed.

Masks like the N95 mask are seen as the most effective mask to be worn in this pandemic. In fact, the N95 mask had cemented its reputation. According to medical experts, the N95 mask is made to protect the wearer from viruses and bacteria. An N95 mask is considered to be the most trusted mask due to its ability to filter airborne particles that are present in the air. The N95 mask is recognizable in the field of medicine. Other fields like Construction and Mining acknowledge the efficiency of the N95 mask. The N95 mask is capable of filtering particles like dust, powdered cement, finer sand particles, and even volatile gases.

Aside from the N95 mask, other masks are considered to be at par with the N95 mask. Masks like the FFP or Filtering Facepiece Respirator are considered. Both the N95 mask and the FFP mask are waterproof and efficient.

What is the FFP?

FFP or Filtering Face Piece is an established standard by the European Union. If the United States of America has N which stands for Not oil-resistant, the European Union has this one. FFP is a protection mask duly licensed by the European Union. Like the N95 mask, the FFP mask is also made to deliver protection against airborne particles, including dust, mist, and other liquid aerosols. The FFP has different criteria to prove its abilities; different from the N95 mask.

What is the difference between the FFP and the N95 mask?

There are a variety of differences between the N95 mask and the FFP mask. They vary in:

Origin and Standard management

The N95 mask originated and distributed by the United States of America. The FFP on the other hand originated and distributed by the European Union. To keep the quality of both masks, there are accrediting bodies that certify and manage the efficiency of the mask. For the N95 mask, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) regulates and manages the mask. They have standards that the N95 mask must attain prior to distribution.

For the FFP mask, the European Committee for Standardization is the one doing the management. Which is why most of the FFP masks have CE marks on their masks. If the mask has the CE mark, that means that the mask itself is approved by the accrediting body. So does with the N95 mask. If the N95 mask has a NIOSH marking, the N95 mask is approved for safe use.

Categorization and Filtration ability

Since both the N95 mask and the FFP mask are regulated and managed by separate bodies, their categorization is different. This categorization corresponds to the filtration ability that each mask offers.

FFP 1 is the lowest category among the FFP mask standards set by the European Union. It does not have any equivalent category in the N-mask series of the United States. It is because its filtration ability reaches up to 80%.

FFP 2 is the next on the categorization. Its filtration ability reaches up to 94%. It is only a percent lower than the N95 mask of the United States which caters up to 95% filtration efficiency.

FFP3 is the last category. It has a filtration ability of 99%, which is similar to the N99 mask. N100 is the highest category in the N-series with a filtration ability of 99.97%.

The same ruling goes for both categories. The higher the number, the more efficient the mask filtration ability.

Being the most in-demand mask, the N95 mask is now experiencing scarcity. Prior to the pandemic, the N95 mask has been an in-demand commodity due to natural phenomena that took place in Australia and the Philippines earlier this year. With the pandemic, the demand for the N95 mask continued to skyrocket up to this day.

The overwhelming demand for the N95 mask made the mask scarce. Reaching up to a million pieces of the N95 mask is used every day in the United States alone. Another aspect that contributed to N95 mask scarcity is looting. Since the start of the pandemic, people have been purchasing pieces of the N95 mask in bulk; leaving hospitals with fewer supplies. These pieces of the N95 mask are then sold 3 times greater than the mask’s original price.

Could an FFP mask be an alternative to the N95 mask?

Yes. The FFP mask can be an alternative to the N95 mask. The category that suits to be the alternative of the N95 mask is the FFP 2. The FFP2 mask has a filtration ability of 94%. This is as close as efficient as the N95 mask with 95% filtration ability. The FFP 2 mask can have a leakage rate of up to 8%, a little higher than the N95 mask which has a maximum of 5.7% leakage rate.

Similar to the N95 mask, the FFP2 also comes in both valved and non-valved models.  The FFP2 mask is also notable in similar fields like construction, medicine, and pharmaceutics like the N95 mask. Moreover, the FFP2 mask is breathable than the FFP3; similar to the N95 mask.

What should not be done in wearing the FFP2 mask?

Like the N95 mask, the FFP2 mask is not for everyone. This mask should not be worn by children and must not be worn by men with stubbles or bread. The FFP2 mask should follow the proper donning and doffing procedures to ensure its efficiency in filtering particles. Without following the instructions, the FFP2 mask can endanger the wearer into potential contact with coronavirus. Like the N95 mask, the FFP2 mask is also a disposable mask. After using it, it has to be disposed of properly to avoid contamination.

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