Is FFP1 face mask protective? Is it efficient in filtering virus? Face masks are in shortage during the Coronavirus period, many people turn to FFP1, FFP2 or even FFP3 protective masks. Then, are these masks protective?
FFP standard is a European standard, it is a certification standard for respiratory protective equipment developed by the European Standards Commission. We discuss masks of FFP European standard because recently in some overseas e-commerce platforms or some agents’ publicities, we often see masks labeled with FFP1, FFP2, FFP1, and so on. The publicities say that FFP1 is more effective than KN95 or make other comparisons, usually, consumers will have a skeptical attitude. Before answering this question, I’d like to say that people go to this FFP1 face mask because they want masks with better protective efficiency while N95s or KN95s are not available, therefore they go oversea e-commerce platforms or agents.
Firstly, let’s see the price. The prices of FFP1, FFP2, or even FFP3 protective face masks are high, maybe higher than N95. But in circumstances that consumers do not have many choices, the consumers can only pay high costs to buy this kind of face masks. Spending money is one thing, understanding the protective degree is another. Next, we will answer these questions.
Which is better? FFP1 or KN95?
The most confusing thing is the preventive effect against the virus, which is better? FFP1 mask respirator or KN95 face masks? FFP2 dust masks or KN95 dust masks? FFP3 masks or KN95 masks? To understand the protective efficiency of European FFP and Chinese KN, it’s better to understand the standards first.
Now we get to the subject and discuss European standards implemented for face masks. The European standard for face masks divides particle protective filter materials into two types: solid particle protection and liquid particle protection. What does this mean? It means the masks under European standards are tested with both solid particles and liquid particles, say aerosol transmittance tests with NaCl (sodium chloride) and DOP (paraffin oil) respectively, according to the transmittance rate, the protection degree is classified into FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3. That is depending on transmittance rates of NaCl (sodium chloride) and DOP (paraffin oil), there are three degrees including P1 (FFP1), P2 (FFP2), and P3 (FFP3). The minimum filtering effect of FFP1 masks ≥80%, the minimum filtering effect of FFP2 ≥94%, and the minimum filtering effect of FFP3 ≥97%. FFP masks are used to filter harmful substances such as oily particles and non-oil particles, including harmful aerosols, dust, smoke, fog drops, toxic gases, and vapors which are absorbed by filter materials to prevent them from being inhaled by human breath.
In conclusion, the European FFP standard is to test with NaCl (sodium chloride) or DOP (paraffin oil). The filtering efficiency of FFP1 is higher than 80%, that of FFP2 is higher than 94%, and that of FFP3 is higher than 97%. What can we infer from this? It is not difficult to see the order the filtering efficiency: FFP3 > FFP2 > FFP1.
The above is a vertical comparison, it is not difficult to understand. Here below we will make a horizontal comparison between FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks and KN95/N95 masks. Which is better? To make the horizontal comparison, we must know the standards of KN95 and N95. A previous article named “What is the Difference between KN95 Masks and N95 Masks” has explained the difference between KN95 masks and medical masks, if you are interested please read it, the conclusion was that N95 is American standard and KN95 is Chinese standard, both these masks are the same. Also, through previous articles, we know there are also KP masks beside KN masks. KN is non-oil protection, KN95, as we often say, belongs to this type. KP is oil protection, mostly used in industrial scenes. Here we mainly talk about KN masks which are tested with sodium chloride particles and classified into three classes: KN90(≥90.0％), KN95(≥95.0％), and KN100(≥99.97％). If any readers do not know the KN standard, please read previous articles.
Here, it is obvious that the European Union test standard of masks includes both non-oil substances and oil substances and tested with sodium chloride aerosol and paraffin oil aerosol, while Chinese standards KN is for non-oil substances and KP for oil substances. To judge which is better between FFP5 and KN95, we will find that filtering efficiency of FFP2 is ≥94% and that of KN95 is ≥95.0％, KN95 is 1% higher than FFP2 in filtering efficiency, so is it true KN95 is more efficient than FFP2? NO! Although filtering efficiency of FFP2 is ≥94% while that of KN95 is ≥95.0％, but there is a very important factor that the European standard FFP2 filtering efficiency ≥94 is tested with both sodium chloride aerosol and paraffin oil aerosol, and KN95 is only tested with non-oil substances–sodium chloride aerosol, that is to say, the European standard is higher than the Chinese standard. Then we can conclude FFP2>KN95=N95.
There is one more point to add. I believe that readers should understand the difference between FFP2 and KN95 standards now. The conclusion is that although FFP2 and KN95 have almost the same protective efficiency rate, FFP2 has oil substance protection while KN95 does not. So in principle, the comparison of the protection effect between FFP2 and KN95 standards should be FFP2 > KN95. But readers should also be aware this is the standard, it does not necessarily mean masks printed with FFP2 are higher in protective efficiency than that of KN95, because the source of the mask also matters. Whether the brand of the mask is reliable? And whether the corresponding production standards are strictly followed in production? It seems complicated but not difficult to explain. No matter it’s FFP2 or KN95 if it’s a mask produced by a small manufacturer not following any standard but labeled with FFP2, comparing it with standard KN95 masks, which you think is better? So in terms of executive standards, we can understand that FFP2 is higher than KN95, but when it comes to the masks, it’s also important to see whether they are produced by the qualified manufacturer and whether the manufacturer strictly abides by relevant production standards. So when buying masks, we should be careful. If you want to buy KN95 masks, ask China’s mask manufacturers for the GB2626 inspection report is enough, but if you want to buy FFP1, FFP2, or FFP3 masks, then you must verify whether the Chinese mask manufacturer has really obtained the EU CE certification and the relevant EN149 2001+A 2009 test report. There are many fake CE certificates on the market now, so when purchasing masks, you must check the mask manufacturer’s CE certificate, which must be issued through EU approved companies with PPE license.
The conclusion is that comparing FFP2 (non oil + oil, effective filtration 94%) with KN95 (non oil effective filtration 95%), FFP2 > kn95! However, the premise is that the production of masks is in accordance with the relevant production standards, and they must be qualified masks, not those masks that are labeled casually. There must be relevant certification certificates and test reports, such as CE certification, EN149 test report, GB2626 test report (KN95).
Is FFP1 useful in protecting against viruses?
Still, there are some people who want to ask which is better between FFP1 protective masks and KN95 masks. The explanation above is very detailed. In theory, FFP2 is better than KN95, when it comes to FFP1, the protection effect of FFP1 which has a protection degree of over 80% against both nonoil particles and oil particles, If only for non-oil particles, the effect of FFP1 is far less than KN90 and even less than KN95. But the advantage of European standard FFP is that it is protective against both non-oil particles and oil particles, and it is better than KN90 and KN95 in the industrial environment. Both national standard KN and American Standard are for non-oil particles. So FFP1 is far less protective than KN95 and KN90 in terms of non-oil particles.
But in this special time, FFP1 is protective, because it can filter 80% of droplets between 0.1 microns and 5 microns in diameter, and 80% is for easily penetrating particles of 0.3 microns in diameter, particles larger or smaller than 0.3 microns can be easily intercepted by this mask, that is to say, the droplets with the virus can be intercepted. To be honest, being ordinary people, if you are not engaged in medical treatment related to high risk work, wearing an FFP1 face mask is already much better than people wearing common masks.