What are Respirator (FFP) Masks?

Respirators are widely used in construction industries to protect from dust or used by those who deal with aerosols, vapours and gases.

Different types of medical face masks provide varied levels of protection.

They are also known to protect against biological agents such as bacteria and viruses notably coronavirus

They are deemed good enough to be used as personal protective equipment (PPE) by hospital staff.

These respirators are tight fitted masks, equipped with a facepiece and a filter piece which provide certain levels of filtration efficiency based on its type.

Tight fitting feature ensures that the mask has properly sealed off the face which can efficiently protect from dust, aerosols and immunological agents (bacteria and viruses).

Layers of Respirators

Respirators are made up of various layers including:

  1. An outer layer
  2. A non woven layer composed of polypropylene microfiber
  3. An acrylic backing for supporting the mask
  4. An inner layer essential to provide a comfortable fit on the face.

Types of Respirator Masks

All the masks manufactured in Europe must be compatible with European Standard EN 149:2001.

This standard has classified respirators masks into three distinguished types.

The higher the number associated with them corresponds to the higher protection.

  • FFP1 provides filtration efficiency of 80%, ideally used by construction trades.
  • FPP2 filters 94% of aerosols. They are equivalent to N95,KN95.
    Ideally recommended for nursing homes and elderly care facilities, mining and metal industries.
  • FFP3 can filter up to 99% of dust, gases, vapours and other agents.
    These marks are recommended for healthcare workers and those exposed with coronavirus.

It should also be noted that everyone has a different sized face.

So, people should choose a respirator which is suitable for that person’s face ensuring there are no leaks.

To ensure that the mask works efficiently, the wearer should undergo a respirator fit test.

Beards or facial stubble can prevent the mask from forming a tight fit to the face which can easily pave the way for contamination.

These respirators should also not be worn in areas where oxygen pressure is low.

If the mask is damaged, visibly dirty or if the tight fitting seal is compromised, it should be discarded immediately.

Who can wear FFP?

SARS-COV-2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets.

These respirators can effectively protect the wearer and decrease the transmission of virus.

In other words, people who are at more risk of contracting the virus should be given priority access to these respirators.

Health care workers, paramedics, people who have the virus or are waiting for results, people caring for a Covid patient should wear respirators.

Elderly individuals, or those with comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension or those with debilitating diseases should also be provided with respirators.

With the numbers of cases rising everyday, some countries are starting to allow the general public to start wearing surgical face masks or FFP to control the spread of disease, whilst WHO still recommend respirators to be reserved for health care workers.

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