N95 vs FFP3 & FFP2 masks – what’s the difference?
In this post we’ll look at the difference between respirator filtering standards such as N95 and FFP2/FFP3.
The N95 and FFP Standards
USA. The most commonly discussed respirator type is N95. This is an American standard managed by NIOSH – part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Europe uses two different standards. The “filtering face piece” score (FFP) comes from EN standard 149:2001. Then EN 143 standard covers P1/P2/P3 ratings. Both standards are maintained by CEN (European Committee for Standardization).
The Filtration Performance
Let’s see how all the different standards compare:
Respirator Standard & Filter Capacity (removes x% of of all particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger)
FFP1 At least 80%
FFP2 At least 94% <click to view
N95 At least 95% <click to view
N99 & FFP3 At least 99% <click to view
N100 At least 99.97%
KN95 vs N95
Whilst theoretically the Chinese KN95 standard has the same specification as N95 respirators – to quote “it is reasonable to consider China KN95, AS/NZ P2, Korea 1st Class, and Japan DS FFRs as equivalent to US NIOSH N95 and European FFP2 respirators”. In practice the issue is more complex, and I wouldn’t take for granted that all KN95 respirators are up to the same standard as US N95 or EU FFP2 respirators.
Things to watch out for:
No guarantee that all KN95 respirators actually meet the Chinese KN95 standard – watch out for scams.
Also check to make sure there’s a good seal around face / some padding for comfort / tie around face straps with adequate strength and tension.
The worldwide market has been flooded by Chinese made KN95 masks which has helped reduce prices but it is very difficult to sellers to verify the documents certifying these masks.
The Health and Safety Executive, HSE recently wrote that KN95 masks should not be worn in the workplace as PPE due to the difficulty in proving the effectiveness of the mask. Instead, they are fine to wear day to day by civilians for example in shops.
Is the N95 or FFP2 better?
First and foremost, buying a mask backed by the proper legitimate documents is most important. We prefer the Europe standard of FFP2 as in our tests they were easier to breathe through. In terms of filtration, they are equivalent. FFP2 respirators filter a minimum of 94% but in reality the masks will filter more, and can actually achieve up to 99% depending on the manufacturer.
Valve vs Non-Valved Respirators
(+ve) Valved respirators make it easier to exhale air. This makes them more comfortable to wear, and leads to less moisture build-up inside the respirator.
(-ve) The problem with valved respirators is that they do not filter the wearer’s exhalation, only the inhale. This one-way protection puts others around the wearer at risk, in a situation like Covid-19. It’s for this reason that hospitals and other medical practices do not use valved respirators.