Updated: Feb 17
Unlike simple face coverings, which can be made of different materials, FFP2 masks provide better protection against infection. A properly fitted FFP2 mask seals the face tightly. As a result, it filters air better than ordinary hygiene masks, which are usually open at both sides: So, while they do retain particles when exhaled, they don't protect the wearer from inhaling particles. According to the Society for Aerosol Research, simple face coverings do not keep out smaller particles and are therefore hardly suitable for self-protection. FFP2 Masks, on the other hand, are tighter and therefore not only protect others from infection, but also the wearers themselves. Everyday masks are also suitable for catching droplets, but their filtering performance strongly depends on the materials used. Thanks to the non-woven fabrics used in FFP2 Masks, they also offer effective protection against aerosols, unlike conventional face coverings.
So, the main difference between conventional face coverings and FFP2 Masks is the fact that FFP2 Masks primarily serve to protect the wearer's own health. The masks are tested to determine how much aerosol and smaller droplets of an average size of 0.6 micrometers pass through the mask. Their protective function is standardised throughout Europe by the DIN EN 149:2009-08 standard. According to this standard, FFP2 Masks must filter out 95 percent of the particles. The masks contain a special filter layer that is electrostatically charged. This not only intercepts the larger particles, but also the much smaller and dangerous aerosol droplets from the inhaled or exhaled air respectively. For this reason, you should use an FFP2 Mask to protect yourself from SARS-CoV-2.
What should I pay attention to when wearing FFP2 Masks? FFP2 Masks can only protect against infection with the coronavirus if they fit snugly. Therefore, always follow the instructions for use supplied with the mask or, if in doubt, ask for instruction. If the mask has a gap at either side due to a poor fit, air can flow through unfiltered. The filtering performance then drops rapidly. For beard wearers: If you have a beard, the mask can no longer fit tightly to your face. The FFP2 Mask should therefore only be worn on clean-shaven skin. This is because small channels can form between the hairs, through which air can flow in and out just as unfiltered. According to the German Robert Koch Institute, both a full beard as well as a three-day-old beard impair the protective effect of the FFP2 Masks.