Besides the classic blue surgical masks, very valid to avoid infecting others but less useful to protect oneself, there are the certified filtering face masks. The acronym FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece.
Filtering facepieces have a very high filtration efficiency of dangerous microparticles and are therefore used in environments with an increased risk of contagion.
It is easy to come across acronyms such as FFP2, KN95, and N95 when looking for filtering facepieces that have passed scientific tests that certify their real protective efficacy. If you are looking for masks that can protect against pollutants or microparticles that carry viruses, these masks have different types of certification, depending on where they are manufactured.
There are three main types of filtering face masks on the market:
- FFP2 masks, with European certification.
- N95 masks, with U.S. certification
- KN95 masks, with Chinese certificate
The KN95 Masks, N95, and FFP2 masks differ in the different procedures used to certify their filtering efficiency. This procedure changes depending on the masks’ place of production since it follows the country’s certification standards where the devices were tested for proper functioning. The KN95 Masks and N95 have a particulate filtering capacity of 95 percent, compared to 92 percent for the FFP2.
The European certification system appears to be more comprehensive in this respect, as it also mandates testing with kerosene oil, a liquid contaminant. In addition to using sodium chloride contaminant particles in a solid-state, the European standard imposes a liquid’s use to test the actual filtering efficiency.
This increased attention undoubtedly speaks volumes in favor of the tests carried out according to European legislation, which is concerned not only with assessing the efficiency of the masks concerning pollutant particles in solid form (dust type), but also, and above all, with particles in the form of droplets (microdroplets) and aerosols diffused in the air.
It is the most recommended mask against the virus since it protects in both directions with one or other terminology. Both the wearer and the rest. But the question everyone asks is, for how long can we use it?
Laboratories do not agree on the useful life of this type of mask. Although the recommended average may be between 8 and 12 hours, in any case, the reality is that people extend its use much longer since it is not as cheap as the surgical one, and they do not want to wear it out. We must insist, above all, on the importance of not reusing single-use masks such as FFP2.
When putting it on and taking it off is when we are most likely to become infected. The ideal is to use them only once, either for one hour or four, but when taking them off, throw them away and not use them again.
Extending the recommended hours of use of a mask is as dangerous as not using it at all. The first and foremost risk is that we are not protected, but by wearing it, we have a false belief that we are. By exceeding the hours of use, the filter becomes clogged and does not work correctly.
But it is not the only risk; improper use can lead to other types of pathologies and infections. On the inside of the mask, saliva droplets that we expel when we speak accumulate. Water and humidity favor the growth of fungi and bacterial colonies, giving rise to other types of infections. These include the appearance of cold sores, small wounds in the corner of the mouth, and an exacerbated acne development.