Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be split in to categories, and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is what every one in the 3D printing world is talking about right now. The 3D Printing comminity has gone made trying to make N95, FFP Clones. However there is NO 3D printed substitute for N95 or FFP masks out there, they are all a compromise, and possibly harmful as you may breath in Micro plastics.
People are confusing standards and different filters in the hope of getting some sort of protection. So we want to try and explain a little about our understanding of RPE.
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is designed to protect against harmful substances that would otherwise enter the airways during specific tasks or in hazardous environments if you were not wearing RPE. In hazardous working conditions these airborne substances, dependent on what they are, can cause anything from minor irritation to internalised burns and corrosion of the throat or lungs.
Where a respiratory risk is present in the workplace, safety measures must be put in place to remove it, or at least reduce it as far as possible. If the risk is still present after all safety measures have been implemented, then employers are required by law to provide RPE that meets the correct standard for protecting their employees from the remaining risk.
Filtering Face Pieces (FFP) are a form of RPE that protect against respirable dust, smoke, and aqueous fog (aerosols). This style of RPE does not offer protection from vapour and gas. The capability of this form of protection has its own unique classes that define their ability to protect against hazards.
Filtering Face Piece (FFP) Protection Classes:
This classifying system consists of three levels: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. A filtering face piece will be categorised and marked according to the level of protection it provides, FFP1 being the ‘least’ protective and FFP3 being the ‘most’.
Lets first understand FFP classes:
Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL): OELs are standards that determine the amount, or concentration, of a hazardous substance allowable in the workplace air.
Assigned Protection Factor (APF): The APF of a mask indicates how well it protects the wearer from hazardous substances. A mask with an APF of 4 will reduce the concentration of the hazardous substance in the air that is breathed by the wearer by 4 times.
FFP1 face masks give the minimum level of protection against non-toxic particulates. Dependent on the hazard, this standard of the mask can be completely capable.
FFP1 masks contain the least amount of filter material so provide the least breathing resistance. An exhalation valve is often not required.
FFP1 masks can protect against brick dust, cellulose, cement, coal dust, gypsum, limestone, Plaster of Paris, pollen and sugar. This type of mask should filter a minimum of 75% of the substance.
These substances are not toxic or fibrogenic but can cause irritation in the airways with adverse long-term effects. FFP1 masks should not be used for materials outside of those listed above, and higher protection should be used in poisonous, toxic or more hazardous environments.
These masks will be rated an APF of 4x OEL.
FFP2 face masks offer a moderate level of protection against hazardous mists, particulates and fumes.
Exhalation valves are more common in FFP2 masks as there is greater breathing resistance. Exhalation valves also help to reduce the build-up of heat inside the mask, improving the comfort for the wearer.
FFP2 masks protect against brake dust, cotton dust, granite dust, hay, lead dust and fume and softwood dust.
FFP2 respirator masks are made for working environments in which dangerous particles can be found in the breathing air. They are most commonly used in the metal and mining industry. Without conformant face masks, workers exposed to the above hazards can develop lung cancer and Tuberculosis (TB).
These masks will be rated an APF of 10x OEL.
FFP 3 respirator:
FFP3 masks provide the highest level of protection that a disposable mask can offer. A well-fitting FFP3 mask can protect users against fine toxic particulates including asbestos, bacteria, viruses and radioactive particles.
The filter material for this standard is so thick that an exhalation valve is almost always fitted. FFP3 masks are often used in the chemistry industry due to the usage of contaminants and hazardous materials.
These masks will be rated and APF of 20x OEL.
So What Is An N95 mask?
An N95 mask is actually referring to the USA standard for face masks at the same level as EU standard for FFP2. To explain in more detail we found this 3M document that shows the different world standards.
What About Surgical Masks?
A surgical mask is a disposable medical device that can be bought in pharmacy and that protects against infectious agents transmitted by “droplets.” These droplets can be saliva or secretions from the upper respiratory tract when the wearer exhales.
If worn by the caregiver, the surgical mask protects the patient and his or her environment (air, surfaces, equipment, surgical site). If worn by a contagious patient, it prevents the patient from contaminating his or her surroundings and environment. These masks should not be worn for more than 3 to 8 hours.
A surgical mask can also protect the wearer from the risk of splashes of biological fluids. In this case, the surgical mask must have a waterproof layer. It can also be equipped with a visor to protect the eyes.
A surgical mask does not completely protect against “airborne” infectious agents so it will not completely prevent the wearer from being potentially contaminated by a virus such as the coronavirus.
China is now allowing free movement in most regions, but everyone must wear a surgical style mask when out and about to protect them and others from contamination. So whilst the masks wont completely prevent you from catching the Coronavirus, they will stop you from spreading it in the incubation period.
Also Taiwan that is just 81 miles form China asked its population to wear face masks and has one of the lowest rates of infection and death of the Coronavirus.
If you want to by face masks then we hope you understand their usage and levels of protection. There are many different types on the market and can be purchased at very low prices for cheap one, but watch out as many are substandard poor quality and not fit for even the lowest filtration type.
EV Accessories has a limited supply of Surgical Masks and FFP2 Masks can be ordered if needed. However we have not purchased any FFP2 masks due to the medical supply chain needing them. As the UK is drawing closer to lock down these goods may be delayed.