Face Masks & Respirators in the Fight Against the COVID-19 Pandemic
Surgical face masks are an essential item of PPE. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the spread of the virus around the world, wearing face masks has been one of the most important tools in the fight against the virus. A different level of protection is achieved depending on the type of face mask you wear. In the medical field, face masks fall broadly into two catergories: classic surgical masks and particle-filtering half masks (FFP masks).
Surgical masks are usually 3-ply, made of special non-woven fabric and can be fastened either with tie straps or ear loops, depending on the design. Surgical face masks are intended for use during examinations, treatments and in the operating theatre, where they are used to protect both medical staff and patients. On the one hand, such face masks intercept droplets from the exhaled air and, on the other hand, they prevent staff from coming into contact with splashes of bodily secretions.
In the European Union, a disposable face mask must have a CE marking and comply with EN 14683. A distinction is made between Type I face masks, which have a bacterial filtering capacity of at least 95 % and Type II face masks, which have a bacterial filtering capacity of at least 98 %. Surgical masks that are also resistant to fluids correspond to type II R if they can withstand a splash pressure of at least 16 kPa. Although they protect the environment, they are not effective at protecting the wearer from airborne diseases such as COVID-19.
Face masks are not only available in the classic medical colours blue, green or white, but also in a range of other colours, such as black or pink. As a rule, the non-sterile face masks are supplied in a box of 50 pieces. These face masks are not reusable and should be disposed of after use.
The FFP mask is a respirator that covers the nose and mouth and, due to its shape, provides a much better seal than surgical masks. FFP masks are usually made of non-woven fabric and protect against the inhalation of particles & aqueous or oily aerosols. In most models, a nose clip ensures that the mask can be optimally adjusted to the face, does not protrude in the nose area, and is comfortable to wear. More expensive models often have an additional sealing lip that ensures that no air can enter unfiltered through the sides or at the chin. They are attached to the head with the help of elastic ear loops or head bands.
FFP respiratory protection masks can be distinguished between 3 classes: FFP1, FFP2 & FFP 3. FFP1 masks with a maximum total leakage of 25 % filter non-toxic and non-fibrogenic dusts up to 4 times the maximum workplace concentration.
FFP2 masks have a protective effect of at least 95 % and can filter out solid and liquid particles, harmful dusts and other harmful substances up to 10 times the maximum workplace concentration.
FFP3 masks have the highest protective effect (min. 99 %). They filter not only toxic substances, but also droplet aerosols, bacteria, viruses and radioactive substances from the air we breathe. They can be used up to 30 times the workplace concentration.
When wearing respirators in sterile or healthcare environments, it is advised to wear unvalved masks to prevent any potential cross-contamination. Although a valved respirator facilitates breathing, it will only protect the wearer because the air exhaled through the valve is likely to contaminate the external environment.
Surgical mask or FFP mask, not sure which to order?
|Surgical Masks||FFP Masks|