Protective masks filter out pathogens and toxins from the air to protect the wearer’s health, whether at work, in medical facilities or during personal use. They also play a key role in combating the coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our shop offers certified FFP2 and FFP3 protective half masks, all of which undergo a standardised certification process.
Generally speaking, protective masks are a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects the wearer against germs and environmental toxins in the air they breathe. Protective masks may be required by law as part of occupational health and safety to protect staff against hazards they may encounter at work. Particle-filtering half masks, also known as FFP masks are used in healthcare settings and in many industrial sectors. FFP stands for filtering facepiece. Particle-filtering masks are primarily designed to protect the wearer.
However, masks may also be used to protect others from germs exhaled by the wearer. If environmental protection (i.e. protecting the area around the mask wearer) is the primary goal, most medical-grade surgical masks or cloth community masks are sufficient. These are also available in our online shop. The WHO recommends these kinds of masks as a basic hygiene measure to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Particle-filtering protective masks are divided into three protective classes under the EN 149 European standard. These are known as FFP classes. This classification is based on how impermeable the protective masks are and the percentage of particulate matter they filter.
FFP1 protective masks filter 80% of particulate matter from the air and are permitted a maximum permeability (internal leak rate) of 25%. They protect against aerosolised particles that, although non-toxic, may irritate the airway. They are often used in construction, agriculture and the food production industry. FFP1 masks are also suitable for use by those who suffer from allergies or who engage in cleaning work involving dust and particulate matter.
FFP2 protective masks filter 94% of particulate matter from the air and are permitted a maximum permeability (internal leak rate) of 11%. FFP2 masks protect against harmful dust particles and aerosols, such as concrete dust, cement, silicone and paint and lacquer particles. They can also be used for protection against risk class 2 bacteria and viruses. These are microorganisms that are considered pathogens, but normally do not result in any serious or difficult to treat illnesses.
FFP3 protective masks must filter at least 99% of particulate matter, and are permitted a maximum internal leak rate of 5%. FFP3 masks offer the highest level of protection and can be used when handling radioactive particles, asbestos and other carcinogenic substances. They also protect against fungal spores and risk class 3 viruses and bacteria. These are germs that cause serious illnesses or that can trigger epidemics.
All FFP masks can be purchased with or without an exhalation valve. An exhalation valve minimises resistance when exhaling, subjectively easing breathing. Valves also help the mask trap less heat and moisture so masks can be worn for longer periods safely. However, the air exhaled through the valve is not filtered. This means that germs may be transmitted unfiltered directly into the air around the wearer. As such, protective masks with exhalation valves only protect the wearer. They do not protect others.
For applications where people other than the wearer need protection as well, e.g. to prevent people from becoming infected by the coronavirus by someone already infected with COVID-19, a product without a valve is the right choice.
Protective masks can serve a dual purpose in hospitals, GP practices and clinics: they protect the staff when treating infectious patients, which is hugely important in combating the COVID pandemic. They also prevent disease transmission from staff to patients. If you need protective masks to fulfil both of these functions, i.e. protecting staff and patients, you need FFP2 or FFP3 masks with no valve.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) generally recommends using FFP2 protective masks at a minimum when treating patients with COVID-19 or those suspected of having the virus. FFP1 masks do not provide sufficient protection against the coronavirus. In situations involving a particularly high risk of infection through aerosolised particles, e.g. when performing a bronchoscopy, FFP3 masks are recommended.
When treating patients not infected or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, the RKI and the WHO recommend face masks (surgical face masks) be worn as a basic hygiene measure, both for staff and patients. It is also a good idea to wear a protective mask in crowded indoor spaces and on public transport to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Community masks made of cloth are suitable in those situations and are often more comfortable to wear.
Activities like planning, sawing, cutting, grinding, drilling or cleaning can produce dust particles or aerosols that can damage our health. Depending on the substance and its concentration, different levels of protection may be required. When handling substances that are generally non-toxic (e.g. gypsum, cellulose, cement, limestone), an FFP1 mask is often sufficient. If harmful particles or aerosols are involved, however, an FFP2 or FFP3 mask should be worn. FFP3 masks also protect against highly toxic substances like asbestos and diesel exhaust particulates and are often used in the chemical and waste disposal industries. Because protective masks in these industries only serve to protect the wearer, it may be appropriate to opt for a protective mask with an exhalation valve.
Every protective mask on the market in the EU/EEA for use as personal protective equipment (PPE) must undergo a strict testing and certification process. The legal basis for this is DIN EN 149. Among other things, this standard defines the criteria for FFP classification. It also stipulates the approach that must be used to test the mask’s filtration capacity and impermeability.
If a protective mask meets all the required criteria, it is certified under EU Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on personal protective equipment (PPE). You can tell if a product has been certified by checking for the CE label, which must be printed directly on the mask. This label lists the FFP protection level, the name of the manufacturer and a product ID number for the certifying body.
We only stock masks in our online shop that have been tested and certified under the legal standards. Our high-quality products also meet the following criteria:
Protective masks often used to be made of a coated cotton material. Nowadays, they are usually made of synthetic material like polypropylene (PPP) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). These materials are gentle on the skin and guarantee reliable filtration. While the outside of the mask is designed to be stable and rigid, the inner layer should be made with a soft, non-woven material that will not irritate the skin.
FFP2 and FFP3 masks usually come in either a rounded or conical shape or a fold-flat design. The mask’s shape has no bearing on its filtration capacity. What is important is that the mask fits the shape of the face as precisely as possible.
Many manufacturers include a foam nose pad with their masks. This makes the mask more comfortable to wear and prevents uncomfortable chafing when wearing masks for longer periods of time.
Protective masks only do their job when worn properly. The risk of contaminating the mask is greatest when removing the mask and putting it on. That’s why it’s important to:
The coronavirus pandemic has suddenly caused protective masks to become a rare commodity, with a lot of lower quality imitation products popping up on the market. When you shop online with us, you can rest assured that we only stock tested, certified, CE-conformant products that meet all the required quality criteria. Our protective masks are always available at fair prices.
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