Is the FFP2 mask the most effective mask?
To fight against the spread of the coronavirus, and even more against its new variants, whether it is the variant from the United Kingdom or South Africa, the wearing of the mask has now become widespread around the world.
However, not all masks are created equal. Thus, faced with an increasingly contagious virus, it is important to know how to choose a suitable mask for good protection.
Many scientists therefore recommend wearing an FFP2 mask, because of its effectiveness.
Should we trust this recommendation? Is the FFP2 mask really more effective than the rest?
In this article, find out everything you need to know about the effectiveness of masks, and more specifically FFP2 masks.
Characteristics and effectiveness of the FFP2 mask
Whether in confined spaces or in public places, it is strongly recommended, or even generally compulsory, to wear a mask. Even though this is difficult to do in practice, it is everyone's responsibility to abide by this rule.
Today, masks are our first shields against the coronavirus. Because of their diversity, the question is which one would be the most effective. For some, the FFP2 mask is the most ‘’ useful ’. But, does the most useful mean the most effective?
Let us return first to the definition of the FFP2 mask (for "Filtering FacePiece "), also called a filter respirator mask. The FFP2 mask is a personal protection device. It is effective in protecting against inhalation of droplets and airborne particles which may contain infectious agents. It is therefore a mask that is very effective in filtering the air of all particles toxic to the body.
It should therefore be noted that what makes FFP2 masks effective lies in their ability to filter up to 94% of aerosols with average sizes of 0.6 µmr. In addition, the FFP2 type mask provides better breathing comfort than other types of masks, because its morphology is more suited to the faces of the wearer (duckbill shape).
Note also that the FFP2 mask is a disposable mask, even if there are a few variants, mainly for professionals working in the construction sector, which are reusable.
In conclusion, the FFP2 type mask is very useful, due to its high efficiency in preventing the transmission of the coronavirus.
What about other types of protective masks?
There is a consensus in the scientific community that wearing any protective mask is helpful in curbing the outbreak, although not all masks are equally effective. In addition to the FFP2 mask, there are also many other types of masks: surgical masks, protective fabric masks, washable masks and KN95 masks.
Surgical masks or splash protection are disposable masks designed to protect against bacteria or viruses such as the coronavirus. The effectiveness of this type of mask lies in its design.
In fact, the surgical mask, also called a 3-ply mask, is made up of three layers: two non-woven layers around a filter layer. These three layers allow the wearer to be protected from the microbial contamination of those around him.
This type of mask is suitable for caregivers and sick people. However, let's not forget that the surgical mask is a disposable mask.
If there is any doubt about the effectiveness of masks made specifically to fight viruses, what about fabric masks?
Fabric masks appeared especially during the shortage of masks during the first wave of the coronavirus, following the shortage of other types of masks.
So even if at first, especially in France, the latter were criticized and deemed useless against the disease, this is no longer the case today. Thus, they were increasingly offered to the population.
In October 2020, the French health authorities categorized the fabric masks according to their effectiveness. This is how category 1 and category 2 masks are distinguished.
Category 1 masks are those that are considered effective due to their ability to filter up to 90% of particles. It is the latter which are recommended by the High Council of Public Health. As of January 2021, category 2 fabric masks are no longer recommended, as they are considered not to be effective enough to fight the coronavirus due to their lower filtration rate, equal to 70%.
Just like the FFP2 masks, the KN95 masks are masks designed to provide respiratory protection to the person wearing it. The KN95 standard is the Chinese standard corresponding to the European standard FFP2.
Thus, just like FFP2 masks, KN95 masks are among the most effective masks against the coronavirus. Their filtration efficiency rate is 95%.
Finally, like the wearers of FFP2 masks, we should point out that people wearing the N95 type mask obviously benefit from breathing comfort. Such comfort is explained by the fact that the mask type KN95 is designed in such a way that the oxygen molecules can freely circulate through the mask.
A civic duty but also a gesture of protection: what to do with your protective mask after use?
It is good to protect yourself with masks against the coronavirus, but it is also good to dispose of these masks properly after use.
The most important, and also the simplest, gesture is not to throw your mask on the ground. Indeed, a mask is of course not biodegradable at all and will take hundreds of years to decompose in nature.
In addition to protecting the environment, this is also to avoid contaminating a third party (who should pick up your used mask) with their used mask (and to avoid contaminating yourself). To this end, health authorities recommend that masks already used be discarded in dedicated garbage bags "resistant and with a functional closure system".
Regarding reusable masks, it is necessary to keep them in an airtight pouch (an envelope may also be suitable if not) until the next wash. All this helps prevent contact with the hand. The aim of this recommendation is not to contaminate yourself with your own mask.
Conclusion: FFP2 masks are the most effective
In conclusion, we can retain that FFP2 masks (or masks of equivalent standards, such as KN95) are, due to their particle filtration rate in the air greater than 94%, the most effective masks for effective protection. of the coronavirus.
However, in situations where wearing a mask is recommended but where the risk is low (for example if you walk in a park only with people in your household), wearing another type of mask may be sufficient to ensure sufficient protection. In this case, cloth masks, washable and reusable, can be recommended because of their less harmful impact on the environment than disposable masks.
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