Masks vs Respirators

Due to the massive impact the globe is facing and the numerous clients we are assisting within the area of personal protective equipment (PPE), we are shedding a little light on the difference between masks and respirators as there are differences to be noted in effectiveness, purpose and price.

This is an important read for our clients, making sure what is requested meets the need.

We would like to give credit to Fast Life Hacks as they have put together a very informative breakdown of the differences:

Masks vs Respirators

Before we go any further, lets just clarify on a technical difference between a “mask” and a “respirator”. In day to day language we often say mask, when referring to what are technically called respirators.

Uses for Masks:

  • Masks are loose fitting, covering the nose and mouth

  • Designed for one way protection, to capture bodily fluid leaving the wearer

  • Example – worn during surgery to prevent coughing, sneezing, etc on the vulnerable patient

  • Contrary to belief, masks are NOT designed to protect the wearer

  • The vast majority of masks do not have a safety rating assigned to them (e.g. NIOSH or EN)

Uses for Respirators:

  • Respirators are tight fitting masks, designed to create a facial seal

  • Non-valved respirators provide good two way protection, by filtering both inflow and outflow of air

  • These are designed protect the wearer (when worn properly), up to the safety rating of the mask

  • Available as disposable, half face or full face

Respirator Standards

Whilst surgical style masks are not redundant by any means (discussed more below), they aren’t designed to protect the wearer, whilst respirators are.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites the N95 respirator standard as part of the advised protective equipment in their Covid-19 FAQ and their SARS guidance (SARS being a similar type of Corona virus). Which suggests that an N95 or better respirator is acceptable.

N95 vs FFP3 & FFP2

The most commonly discussed respirator type is N95. This is an American standard managed by NIOSH – part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Europe uses two different standards. The “filtering face piece” score (FFP) comes from EN standard 149:2001. Then EN 143 standard covers P1/P2/P3 ratings. Both standards are maintained by CEN (European Committee for Standardization).

Let’s see how all the different standards compare:

Respirator StandardFilter Capacity (removes x% of of all particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger)FFP1 & P1At least 80%FFP2 & P2At least 94%N95At least 95%N99 & FFP3At least 99%P3At least 99.95%N100At least 99.97%

As you can see, the closest European equivalent to N95 are FFP2 / P2 rated respirators, which are rated at 94%, compared to the 95% of N95.

Similarly, the closest to N100 are P3 rated respirators – with FFP3 following closely behind.

You could approximate things to say:

If you are looking for a supply chain or sourcing partner for your PPE needs reach out to our team: or if you would like to read the full article go to the link provided above.



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