Face Filtering Piece (FFP)

There are three classes of face filtering piece (FFP). They are named as so: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3, the latter being the most effective barrier method. 

Constructed of various filter materials, these types of mask protect against fine particles, dust, oily aerosols and smoke. They do not offer protection against vapours or gases. An FFP is sometimes referred to as a particle-filtering half mask, fine particle mask or respiratory protection device. 

An N95 respirator mask is a type of FFP. But, whilst the N95 meets US standards as per NIOSH, FFPs meet those standards of the EU.

Standards of a Face Filtering Piece (FFP)

The protective function of an FFP mask conforms to the EN 149 standard as officiated by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). The credentials of the three classes of FFP are as follows:

  • FFP1 masks filter at least 80% of aerosols with a total inward leakage of 22%. This type of mask is used to protect against dust and is not recommended for healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19 patients. 
  • FFP2 masks filter at least 94% of aerosols with a total inward leakage of 8%. They are used in construction, agriculture and healthcare. FFP2 masks may be used for protection against COVID-19 and other influenza viruses.
  • FFP3 masks filter at least 99% of aerosols with a total inward leakage of 2%. They are the most effective of all the FFP classes. They protect against the finest particles.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advises the use of class 2 or sometimes class 3 FFP respirators when assessing a suspected case or managing a confirmed case of COVID-19. An FFP3 should be used when performing aerosol-generating procedures.

Usage of an FFP 

The total wearing time of an FFP must comply with the instructions as per the manufacturer guidelines for use. This generally equates to 8 hours or less in a single day, subject to the conditions of use. As with N95 respirators and surgical masks, FFPs are intended for single-use. Once removed, an FFP mask should not be reused.

In a healthcare setting, FFP2 and FFP3s are to be reserved exclusively for healthcare practitioners when performing medical procedures that may generate a respiratory aerosol. Subject to the supply at a facility, they may be worn by patients who are confirmed with COVID-19. 

FFP2 and FFP3s should not be worn by the general public for protection against COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. Civilians may wear single-use cloth masks or canvas protection. 

Precautions and care of an FFP 

As with the N95 masks, FFPs are disposable items. An FFP mask should be discarded as follows:

  • When the seal no longer provides a snug fit
  • At any physical damage 
  • If the wearer experiences any breathing issues
  • If the mask is tainted by bodily fluids or respiratory secretions from patients

An FFP mask should be discarded with care. It should be wrapped in a plastic bag or clean tissues prior to disposal in the bin. FFPs should not be shared among healthcare workers. 

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