1st Mar

The Difference Between FFP2 Masks, KN95 and N95. A Comprehensive Guide.

As more Covid-19 variants emerge across the globe, attention has once again turned to N95 and FFP2 face masks.

What are N95 and FFP2 Masks?

KN95 Face Masks

You can purchase approved filtering face masks in addition to the classic blue surgical masks, which are good for avoiding infecting others but less effective for protecting yourself.

The initials FFP in the name FFP2 stand for ‘Filtering Face Piece,’ and these masks filter out harmful microparticles very effectively, which is why they are used in conditions where there is a high risk of infection.

3 Types of Filtering Face Masks are:

  • European-certified FFP2 face masks
  • American-certified N95 face masks
  • Chinese-certified KN95 face masks

Filtration Performance

According to the requirements that regulate their technical characteristics, the KN95, N95, and FFP2 masks all have identical levels of filtration: all three have a filtration capacity above 94 percent.

Here is the specific certified filtration capacity for each of the three types :

  • FFP2 face masks: 94% filtration capacity
  • N95 face masks: 95% filtration capacity
  • KN95 face masks: 95% filtration capacity

The standards governing KN95, N95 and FFP2 Masks

KN95, N95 and FFP2 masks differ in the procedure used to calculate their filtration. This procedure changes based on where they are produced, as it follows the certification rules established by the country where the devices’ functioning is tested.

A Summary of Differences

FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks – EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2009

FFP2, FFP1 and FFP3 masks are governed by a piece of European legislation, the famous EN 149: 2001, updated in 2009. This law defines the standards used to certify the effectiveness of ‘respiratory protective devices’, and clearly establishes the requirements, tests and branding for the masks.

N95 Mask – NIOSH-42CFR84

N95 Masks are covered by American standard NIOSH -42CFR84, drawn up by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), the American body responsible for certifying the actual effectiveness of filtering facial devices.

KN95 Mask – GB2626-2006

KN95 masks are certified in the People’s Republic of China based on the rules set out in standard GB2626-2006. This standard dictates the technical requirements, testing methods and branding for respiratory devices with a protective filter used to purify the air from potentially damaging particles.

KN95, N95 and FFP2 Masks: the varying testing methods

Although their overall aim is the same – to certify the devices’ actual capacity to protect people from inhaling potentially damaging substances or particles – each of the three standards that certify filtering face masks is different from the others. The differences lie in the methods adopted to test the devices – depending on the type of test carried out, the requirements and test conditions may therefore vary.

This table summarises the similarities and differences:

1.The European standard uses liquid substances in tests as well as solids

The first difference relates to the polluting substance used when testing the FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks.

The European certification system seems more in depth here, given that it also carries out testing using paraffin oil, a liquid pollutant, as well as using sodium chloride particles in a solid state.

This is certainly a positive thing, as it means the effectiveness of the masks is tested not only with solid-state pollutants (like a powder), but also, and most importantly, particulates in the form of droplets and aerosols spread by the air.

2.The European standard pays more attention to inhalation resistance

The second immediately apparent difference is the figure for the permitted inhalation resistance.

The average resistance figure in the European standard is substantially lower than in the American and Chinese certification systems, suggesting that FFP2 masks made to the European standard should be more comfortable and robust.

Durability of FFP2 masks

How long does a FFP2 mask last?

FFP2 masks can be marked with the letter (R) for ‘reusable’ or (NR) for ‘non-reusable’. Most FFP2 masks fall into the latter category – they are protective devices that progressively become less effective with the passing of time. For this reason, an FFP2 mask typically lasts around eight hours in at-risk environments, or a single work shift. Even if it is worn while keeping a safe distance in low-risk areas, the mask should nevertheless be thrown away after eight hours, since breathing and exposure to moisture gradually affect its filtration capacity and physical integrity. Once they become significantly damp, FFP2 masks should be binned.

FFP2 masks with and without valves: what’s the difference?

FFP2, N95 and KN95 masks can be produced with or without a valve. But what difference does it make? Put simply, masks with a valve are safe for the wearer, but not for those around them. 

People who have, or may have, COVID-19 should not wear masks with valves; instead, they should choose masks without a valve, which filter both the inhaled and exhaled air: surgical masks or KN95, FFP2, or N95 masks with no valve.


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