Regardless of whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a trade professional, there’s no doubting the fact that you’ll have worn respiratory protection before. From disposable dust masks to full-face respirators, there are dozens of products on the market to protect your lungs.
They’re vital too, protecting our lungs from dangerous chemicals, fibres, smoke and more – all of which can cause serious, irrevocable damage to the body. It’s why we wear them.
The most commonly worn masks are called filtering facepieces (FFP) and their abilities range, with some protecting only respirable dust, whilst others covering smoke and aqueous fog (aerosols), but do not offer protection from vapour or gas.
Each conforms to EU norm EN 149, but where the confusion begins in their classification. They’re split into three categories: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. But what do these classifications mean? Join us as we explain the difference.
The FFP1 classification is reserved for the most basic of filtering facepieces, containing up to 80% of particles measuring up to 0.6 μm. The classification standards demands:
- Protection from ‘atoxic and non-fibrogenic’ kinds of dust.
- Inhaling may cause the development of health conditions and can irritate the respiratory system and cause unpleasant odours.
- Leakage may amount to a maximum of 25%.
- The mask can be used in an environment which is at most 4-times higher than the occupational exposure limit value (OEL).
FFP1 respirators are typically used in light DIY tasks like painting, sanding, and light construction. They’re typically used for keeping dust out of the mouth and lungs and are often disposable. You can view our full range of FFP1 respirators here.
With significantly more robust levels of protection, FFP2 filtering facepieces contain at least 94% of particles measuring up to 0.6 μm. The classification demands:
- Protection from firm and fluid deleterious forms of dust, smoke and aerosols.
- Particles may be fibrogenic, which can irritate the respiratory system in the short term and result in the reduction of elasticity in the pulmonary tissue in the longer term.
- Total leakage may only amount to a maximum of 11%.
- The mask can be used in environments with OEL levels 10-times higher than the normal limit.
As a result of their increased levels of protection, FFP2 masks are often worn in industries like mining and metal, where exposure to aerosols, fog and smoke is common. You can view our entire range of FFP2 masks here.
The highest level of protection offered by a fitted facepiece, FFP3 respirator masks offer exceptional levels of protection from air pollution with a total leakage maximum of 5% and 99% of all particles measuring up to 0.6 μm filtered. The classification demands:
- Protection from poisonous and deleterious types of dust, smoke and aerosols.
- Filtration for oncogenic and radioactive substances or pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungal spores.
- Total leakage may amount to a maximum of 5%.
- Suitable for environments with OEL transgression to the thirtyfold value.
Because of their advanced and specialised protection, FFP3 respiratory masks are often used in the chemistry industry. View our entire FFP3 range here.
Another important factor is fit. We recently took a closer look at Face Fit Testing for protective masks.