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  • FAQ

    Questions and answers

    Protection masks: which to choose?

    The protection masks differ in type, specifications and therefore filtering capacity. In any case, they must comply with some rules that define the technical and safety standards for the use for which they are intended. These standards establish the minimum requirements for the masks to be considered for all intents and purposes of respiratory protective devices, including construction and performance specifications as well as laboratory and use tests for the assessment of their conformity.

    But what are the best protection masks and how to choose a certified model? As said, in order to be truly effective, the protection masks must comply with the criteria of the technical standardization system, which in Italy is defined by UNI, the Italian National Unification Body. The standards relating to protective devices for the respiratory tract are developed starting from the European reference standards (EN) and, according to the compliance with the various regulations, the masks are classified into different types.

    Surgical masks

    (UNI EN 14683: 2019 + AC: 2019)
    Surgical masks are those that comply with the UNI EN 14683: 2019 + AC: 2019 standard that defines “the construction, design, performance requirements and test methods for medical face masks intended to limit the transmission of infectious agents by staff to patients during surgical procedures and other medical activities with similar requirements. ”

    Specifically, “the main intended use of face masks for medical use is to protect the patient from infectious agents and, in addition, in certain circumstances, to protect the wearer from splashes of potentially contaminated liquids. They can also be destined to be worn by patients and other people to reduce the risk of spreading infections, particularly in epidemic or pandemic situations ”. The standard also specifies that “a face mask for medical use with an appropriate microbial barrier can also be effective in reducing the emission of infectious agents from the nose and mouth of an asymptomatic carrier or a patient with clinical symptoms”.

    Masks FFP1, FFP2, FFP3

    (UNI EN 149: 2009)
    In order to be able to talk about respiratory protective masks, it is necessary to look at other standards, in particular UNI EN 149: 2009 transposing the European standard EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2009 which defines “the minimum requirements for dust filtering half masks used as respiratory protective devices “providing three protection classes based on filtering efficiency, namely FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. The masks complying with this standard are made up entirely or mainly of filtering material, cover the nose, mouth and possibly also the chin (half-mask), can have one or more inspiration and / or exhalation valves and are designed for protection from both fine dusts (generated by the crushing of solids), both from water-based mists and organic-based mists (liquid aerosols) and fumes (vaporized liquids).

    The three FFP protection classes (the abbreviation stands for filtering face piece, in Italian “particle filtering facepiece”) differ from each other according to the filtering effectiveness (filter penetration limit with an air flow of 95 L / min ) and the total inward loss (TIL), the% of air entering the breathing area and therefore also of environmental pollutants or potentially pathogenic agents such as Sars-Cov-2).

    FFP1 class masks

    The FFP1 class masks ensure a first level of protection of the respiratory tract in dusty environments and which contain suspended particles. They are therefore semi-facial dust masks commonly used in various sectors (textile, food, mining, iron and steel, construction and construction, wood, except hardwood) capable of protecting the respiratory tract from solid and liquid non-volatile particles when their concentration does not exceed 4.5 times the limit value * of the threshold set by the regulations.

    They have a filtering capacity of at least 80% of the particles suspended in the air and an internal loss of less than 22%. It is not suitable for protection from pathogens that are transmitted by air.

    FFP2 class masks

    The FFP2 masks offer a second level of respiratory protection and are generally used in the textile, mining, pharmaceutical, iron and steel, agricultural and fruit and vegetable, automotive body, wood (except hardwood) industries, in analysis laboratories and even by health workers or personnel exposed to low-moderate risks.