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I am looking at buying a new batch of masks, since I still prefer to use a mask for my travelling. I am close to running out again, and the company that I previously got masks from now has a 'new' mask with a different standard. However, I can't find what the difference would be between the different mentioned standards. The only thing I can find is sites that sell very expensive spec sheets, which is a bit beyond the point for me. I understand that they are both European standards, but I can't find sources on what the difference would be.

I am posing the question a bit more broad, since I think it might be a valuable source to have more different standards mentioned together. But the two standards in question are:

'Old' masks: EN149:2001+A1:2009
'New' masks: CE 1463, EN149+A1:2010

My simple consumerism brain goes "oeh bigger number better", but that's not how it always works. I am aware of the difference between FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. But both of these masks are labeled FFP2. For the sake of argument, let's assume the masks are 'real'.

What is the difference between the standards used for masks?

And more specifically put, what is the difference between the masks I'm looking at?


Mods: I hope I found the right StackExchange to ask this question. If you think there is a better place for this question then please let me know!

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  • Not an answer, but it may be worth noting that in terms of actual risk reduction the specific type of mask does not make much difference, as compared to other factors such as washing/sanitizing your hands after touching high-touch surfaces (e.g. toilet flushers, door handles, counter-tops), and avoiding crowded enclosed areas.
    – user21820
    May 21 at 11:35

2 Answers 2

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The FFPx standards refer to the efficiency of the mask and the minimum particle size it filters out:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7248188/#:~:text=FFP1%20refers%20to%20the%20least,filtering%20mask%20of%20the%20FFPs.

FFP1 refers to the least filtering of the three masks with an aerosol filtration of at least 80% for 0.3 μm particles, and is mainly used as an environmental dust mask. FFP2 masks have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage whilst FFP3 masks are the most filtering mask of the FFPs. With a minimum filtration percentage of 99%, they protect against very fine particles such as asbestos.

So FFP1s are simply dust masks, good for sanding in your workshop but not good for medical use. FFP2s are basically the N95/KN95/EN149 masks, and FFP3s are the N99 masks. The general recommendations from the US CDC for protection from COVID are the KN95/N95/EN149 masks, although N95 should be reserved for use by medical professionals.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer. So basically if it’s FFP2 the amendment doesn’t really matter (for Covid at least)? It’ll have to stop 95% of particles anyway? May 21 at 5:43
  • @MagicLegend: If the fit is not completely air-tight, then the so-called "95%" will be completely irrelevant since your breathing will draw air around the edges of the mask. The point is that if it is not harder to breathe through an N95 mask than usual then you are wearing it wrongly.
    – user21820
    May 21 at 11:44
  • @user21820 Having worn N95 masks a lot for a number of years (prior to the current pandemic as well); they are not more difficult to breathe through than regular masks, just more uncomfortable because of the tightness and fit requirements
    – bob1
    May 22 at 22:19
  • @bob1: It may depend on the type; if your mask is on the smaller end, then it will be harder to breathe through. And majority of masks are not big enough to allow easy breathing. Maybe you also breathe less than the average person.
    – user21820
    May 22 at 23:29
  • @user21820 did you do a proper fit-testing? If so, you should be using a mask of the appropriate size for your face, and they definitely do not impede breathing unless getting clogged by moisture or particulate matter.
    – bob1
    May 23 at 0:36
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EN149:2001+A1:2009 and EN149:2001+A1:2010 are European standards, with the year of ammendments at the end. Unfortunately, like you, I cannot find a definitive answer to the difference without paying €83 = $88 = £70.

The ammendments made in EN149:2001+A1:2009 are reviewed at https://icc-iso.org/index.php/en/certificates/58-maskat-en

This new classification involves changes and new performance requirements. The tests introduced partly aim to give the user additional confidence in the effectiveness of the respirators, ensuring continued protection of the respiratory tract even in particularly demanding environments. In addition, for respirators classified according to the new rules as "reusable", to be able to repeat cleaning, storage and reuse between shifts.

The site then goes into specifics on what the new requirements are, above the previous standard.

The main innovations introduced are shown below:

  1. Disposable devices (product classification and marking 'NR').
  • Climatic conditioning under altered conditions prior to testing.
  • New efficiency test - a long-term extension of the previous penetration test.
  • Optional test related to clogging requirements (product classification and marking "D").
  • Example of marking: EN 149:2001+A1:2009 FFP2 NR D
  1. Reusable devices (product classification and marking 'R'
  • Conditioning under altered conditions before testing.
  • New cleaning and sanitation tests of the product before penetration tests.
  • New efficiency test - a long-term extension of the previous penetration test.
  • New 24-hour post-exposure storage test.
  • New penetration test to be repeated after storage.
  • Mandatory test related to clogging requirements (product classification and marking "D").
  • Example of marking: EN 149:2001+A1:2009 FFP3 R D The marking on the product must remain EN149:2001, but it must contain information if the product is disposable (NR) or reusable (R).

Sadly, during the coronavirus pandemic the personal protective equipment (PPE) market is inundated with fake respirators claiming to be genuine. These fakes will pose a health risk to anyone wearing them because they will provide little protection against the coronavirus.

Instructions for how to spot fake masks can be found at https://bda.org/advice/Coronavirus/Documents/spotting-fake-face-masks.pdf

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  • Thank you for the information. I guess I’m glad I didn’t make an oversight in my search, and that you ran into similar roadblocks. Thank you for laying out what the amendment entails, that’s very useful. As for the fakes, the supplier I’m looking at is a major EU supplier here, and I trust that their size and EU-production means a quality product without any trickery. Just out of interest I will try to contact them about this question, although I doubt they’ll go into detail… May 21 at 5:49

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