Frequently Asked Questions

We get asked lots of questions about the different types of face masks there are on the market at the moment.  From the basic dust mask, though to Fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSM) EN14683:2019 Type IIR and FFP2 /KN95 and FFP3 respirator masks.

We have tried to answer some of the questions below.

What is PPE?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) comprises items that offer protection against health and safety hazards. These items include safety helmets, masks, aprons, visors, safety footwear etc.

The PPE that Sera Technologies sells is intended primarily for medical purposes but PPE is widely used in other industries such as construction.

What mask should I wear to protect myself from Corona virus?

National governments including the British government issue guidance on the use of PPE including in relation to Corona virus. The PPE recommended depends on the context is which it is used e.g. the recommendation for someone working in a hospital emergency department differs from that for a passenger using public transport.

These recommendations refer to PPE that conforms to certain international standards. As a supplier, we sell products that conform to those standards. We sell quality products that adhere to standards; health professionals and governments are the ones that tell you when and where they should be used.

Is a medical mask going to be better than one I make myself?

Most probably yes.

Homemade masks vary a lot whereas medical masks have specific properties defined by international standards – you know where you stand and can use the correct type for what you are doing.

Homemade masks may well offer some protection against large fluid droplets (in and out such as when coughing) but are vey unlikely to protect against smaller particles or bacteria.

What types of face mask are there?

There are, of course, many types of face masks including those individuals make themselves but here we are concerned with medical face masks. Medical face masks have been designed to meet specific standards of performance.

There are two main categories, medical masks and respirator masks with a number of sub-categories.

Broadly speaking, medical masks are loose fitting (they still need to be worn properly to be effective) and protect the wearer for relatively large air borne particles. They can also others from the wearer secretions such as saliva. Some have protection against fluid penetration too.

Respirator masks are more precisely fitted masks (i.e. care needs to be taken when putting them on to make sure there is an effective “seal”). They additionally protect from much smaller particles including fluids which are filtered out by the mask.

What are types I, II and IIR face masks?

Types I, II and IIR are the various European Union standards applied to medical face masks in order of increasing protection.

Type II has a better level of filtration than type I.

Additionally, type IIR need to meet a specified level of protection against fluid penetration (types I and II are not required to meet fluid penetration standards).

What is the difference between a type II and a type IIR mask?

Both masks are tested against a number of criteria set out in the European standards. In particular, they must have a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) of 98% or more – this measures how well the mask protects against bacteria.

In addition, the type IIR masks are tested for resistance to splashes (using synthetic blood particles) and must meet the standard’s criterion (16kPa or better).

What is a 3 ply mask?

A 3 ply mask is made up of three layers fastened together.

In medical masks, these will be made of paper or another non-woven fabric.

The outer layer repels particles (including fluids for certain masks e.g. type IIR), the middle layer is the key section that filters out bacteria, the inner layer is soft next to the skin and can absorb small amounts of fluids e.g. spit.

How long will my medical mask last?

The masks Sera Technologies sells are designed for single use after which they should be disposed of.

How do FFP2, KN95 and N95 masks compare?

These are standards applied to respirator masks.

FFP2 is a European standard, KN95 a Chinese standard and N95 a USA standard.

These are approximately equivalent standards but do differ somewhat in specific testing requirements.

What are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks?

These are different grades of respirator masks in ascending order of protection.

FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece.

The FFPn classification relates to the categories within the European standard against which the masks are tested.

What does FFP mean?

The abbreviation FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece.  It is mainly used to describe respirator style face masks, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 under EN149 tests.  The higher the number the greater the filtration.  FFP2 (N95) >95% and FFP3 (N99) >99%.  Sometimes however please say “3 Ply FFP2”, what they really mean is EN14683 Type II which is a three ply face mask with a filtration >95%.  The terminology just gets confused.

What does FFP3 stand for?

FFP3 stands for Filtering face piece level 3, it is the highest level in face mask filtration.  In Europe is is known as FFP3, in the USA and other countries it is called N99.  The filtration level is 99%, they are designed to fit extremely well to your face, usually with fully adjustable head straps and a mask that can be shaped well.

What is EN14683?

This is the reference number of the European Standard for face masks (the current version at the time of writing is EN 14683:2019+AC:2019). This specifies what performance characteristics a mask must have.

The standard document specifies the, “construction, design, performance requirements and test methods for medical face masks intended to limit the transmission of infective agents from staff to patients during surgical procedures and other medical settings with similar requirements. A medical face mask with an appropriate microbial barrier can also be effective in reducing the emission of infective agents from the nose and mouth of an asymptomatic carrier or a patient with clinical symptoms.”

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