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What is the FFP2 mask used for?

In Germany, the number of infections has increased again since the corona crisis began. One of the possible reasons can be observed on a daily basis. There are more and more people who no longer want to wear an FFP2 mask, whether on public transport or when shopping. In both cases, however, a mask is required.

More and more people are considering access to the so-called FFP2 masks due to the refusal of others. Actually, these filter particle masks are intended for nurses and doctors when treating infected people. This involves breathing through a filter that removes larger particles such as droplets from the air you breathe. More and more people want to buy an FFP2 mask. But does this make sense?

FFP2 mask is more effective than everyday masks

The primary purpose of the FFP2 masks is to protect the wearer. This is also made clear by the side of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BdArM). The masks were tested in various tests to determine how much aerosol and droplets of a virus with an average size of 0.6 micrometers can pass through the mask. The protective function of these FFP2 masks is nominated throughout Europe by the DIN EN 149: 2009-08 standard. According to this standard, an FFP2 mask would have to filter out 95% of the particles.

The FFP2 masks are therefore more effective for self-protection than the everyday mask. Everyday masks do not have to comply with any standard and therefore they vary greatly in their filter performance. It is therefore worthwhile to buy an FFP2 mask.

FFP2 masks with an exhalation valve do not offer enough external protection

FFP2 masks offer more external protection than the so-called everyday masks, even if these primarily only serve to protect yourself. Recently the journal “Science Advances” disclosed a published study on this. In the United States, N95-type respirators reserved for hospital staff performed best. In terms of the standard and specifications, these correspond to the FFP2 masks in Europe. In these masks, those emitted by a speaker were expelled and droplets were reduced to less than 0.1% of the amount without a mask.

However, this only applies to masks that did not have a valve for exhalation. Masks with an exhalation valve are rather rare and only filter the air that is inhaled. Therefore, they offer little outside protection. Surgical masks performed second best overall in this study. The everyday masks made of materials such as cotton came directly behind with very different results.

Breathing with FFP2 masks is exhausting

However, there are other arguments against the widespread use of these FFP2 masks. The filter in these FFP2 masks provides increased resistance when breathing. Breathing under these masks is comparable to the exertion of the respiratory muscles when one's own breath has to be drawn through a straw and is therefore associated with shortness of breath. Because of this, you should carefully consider which activities you want to and can handle with this mask and over what period of time.

The resistance when breathing is easier to bear if you only go to the bakery for 5 minutes than if you have to wear the mask for 8 hours as a salesperson in a retail shop. The FFP2 mask would also slow down endurance training in the gym, for example, before the training can even have an effect.

Recycled FFP2 masks are less dense

These types of masks are not reusable. In the long term, constant new purchases are very expensive. An additional filter function of the FFP2 masks has an electrostatic force on the surface. So these are loaded. If the mask becomes damp, for example through breathing or a washing process, the filter performance is significantly reduced. Unfortunately, one cannot hope that the statutory health insurance companies will reimburse or cover the costs for the FFP2 masks. The AOK writes on a request in this regard: "FFP2 masks for coronavirus prevention are not aids in the sense of the requirements for statutory health insurance."

Pay attention to the DIN marking of the FFP2 mask when purchasing

If you decide on an FFP2 mask, you could buy it in an online shop, for example. However, it is important to pay attention to the mentioned DIN marking (DIN EN 149: 2009-08). If there is no DIN designation, there is no guarantee that the nonwoven will filter enough and that breathing will not become too strenuous. The warnings of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health should also be heeded, which are increasingly to be found in traffic against plagiarism or counterfeit protective masks with reduced quality.

Beard wearers and the special features of the FFP2 mask

The mask should fit snugly on the wearer's face. To do this, a man with a beard would have to shave. FFP2 masks only work if they are really tight. Just like water, air also takes the path of least resistance. If the FFP2 masks have gaps on the sides due to a poor fit, the air does not go through the fleece, but through the leak. This means that the filter performance drops rapidly. Thus, the function and the purchase of the FFP 2 mask is pointless.

Masks - KN95 or FFP2?

There are different respiratory masks and face masks in different filter classes and designs. Depending on their classification, the products hold off particles of different sizes. At the beginning of the pandemic with the coronavirus, FFP2 and FFP3 masks were very much in demand. The KN95 mask also moved into the foreground. However, these different designations are related to the different standards worldwide.

In Germany, a distinction is made in three groups with regard to the classifications of respiratory masks. It is important that the substances reliably protect against solids. There are special masks that protect against gases and vapors: so-called full face masks with a filter unit.

The word FFP stands for "Filtering Face Piece". In connection with the corona pandemic, the RKI recommends wearing masks with at least filter class 2.

  • FFP1 mask: Non-toxic dusts, smoke particles
  • FFP2 mask: Non-toxic dusts, smoke particles, carcinogenic substances
  • FFP3 mask: Non-toxic dusts, smoke particles, carcinogenic substances, viruses, bacteria, fungal spores, radioactive substances

KN95 and N95 masks from China

The Chinese standards GB 2626-2006 “Respiratory protective equipment. Non-powered air-purifying particle respirator "and GB 19083-2010" Technical requirements for protective faxe mask for mecibal use "were published by the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC). The transition period up to June had the standard GB 2626-2006, after that only GB 2626-2019 applies. The national standard is referred to as GB and must be adhered to during the manufacture of the product. There are four different mask types: KN95, KN100, KP95 and KP100. The type KN95 mask is currently the most common model that is ordered from China and essentially corresponds to the requirements of the American N95 masks.

The FFP2 mask and its pitfalls

The symbol of the coronavirus crisis is the mask and has also become a political issue at the same time. In the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia introduced the mask as compulsory in public transport, when shopping and in medical practices. The everyday mask has also become a basic requirement and part of the hygiene concept for almost every relaxation measure in other areas.

Can be used multiple times through sterilization?

There are not only masks with the FFP designation, but also with other designations, as mentioned above, the N95. If it cannot be avoided, FFP2 masks can also be used multiple times. However, this should only be done in an absolute emergency. To do this, however, the masks must be heated to at least 65 to 70 degrees. Not all FFP2 masks can withstand these temperatures.

FFP masks are still a very scarce commodity. Therefore, for a while, these masks should only be used by medical staff who also deal with Covid patients or who cannot avoid handling them. A study has shown that an FFP mask is particularly effective for intubated Covid 19 sufferers. These masks do not provide extensive protection, especially in daily use.

FFP2 mask related to the norovirus

In the event of a norovirus outbreak, the RKI recommends wearing a suitable ffp2 norovirus mask to avoid inhaling the drops. According to the Biological Agents Ordinance, a suitable ffp2 mask would be norovirus.

In most cases the globally occurring noroviruses cause gastrointestinal diseases. The pathogens are excreted en masse from the sick person through the stool and vomit and are highly contagious. In community facilities such as kindergartens, schools, old people's homes or hospitals, there are therefore often larger bridges. Most illnesses occur between October and March and this is where the ffp2 Norovirus mask helps.

How are noroviruses transmitted?

From human to human

In most cases, noroviruses, like the coronavirus, are transmitted from person to person via a so-called smear infection. The pathogens are carried on in this way in the smallest traces of stool residues or vomit by sick people on the hands. The fours then easily come from the hand and into the mouth. There are also many tiny virus-containing droplets in the air that appear during vomiting. Therefore it is very important to wear the ffp2 mask norovirus.

About contaminated objects

The pathogens also adhere to objects such as door handles, handrails or fittings and also get from the hands to the mouth. It makes sense to wear an ffp2 norovirus mask here as well.

About food

Noroviruses can also be present in raw foods such as salads, fruit (including frozen berries, for example), crabs and mussels and can also lead to infection, as can contaminated water or other drinks.