How safe do FFP2 masks protect? Rolf Vennenbernd
The WhatsApp, which our reader Dietrich Giesemann received, is disturbing. You can see a user manual which points out that FFP2 masks allegedly do not protect against viruses. Is that so?
Dietrich Giesemann writes that he is very concerned about what he has read. The FFP2 mask, which is now compulsory on buses and in supermarkets, is often presented to the public as a "miracle weapon". And now this: "Not suitable against particles of radioactive substances, viruses and enzymes"!
But is it really true that FFP2 masks are unsuitable against coronavirus, as hundreds of photos of instructions for use circulating on WhatsApp and Twitter suggest? No source of these documents is given by any user. And it is also difficult to determine which manufacturers they are referring to, whether the instructions are current, outdated or possibly manipulated.
FFP2 masks trap particles
The Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR24) had subjected the matter to a comprehensive fact check. His conclusion: the masks are quite capable of retaining aerosols containing Sars-Cov-2, with a prescribed efficacy of at least 94 percent.
According to a manufacturer Drager in Lubeck, the masks offer both mechanical and electrostatic protection due to their filter material. They virtually hold the particles. Because they are not actually medical masks but work masks, they are not tested during certification to see if they keep bacteria and viruses out, says a spokesman for the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) in Bonn.
Nevertheless, they have long been used in the medical field, for example in hospitals or in nursing care, for one decisive reason: because of their good filtering performance.
Virus does not spread as a single particle
The fact is that the coronavirus does not spread as a single, free-floating particle, but in aerosols and droplets. And they are at least as large as those aerosols for which our FFP2 masks with the CE mark have been tested.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a SARS-CoV-2 virus has a diameter of 0.08 to 0.14 micrometers. However, as mentioned, it leaves the body in the form of aerosols and droplets, which are usually significantly larger, namely at least 0.5 micrometers, as confirmed by the head of the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Munster, Professor Stephan Ludwig.
Not 100 percent protection
Since FFP2 masks must retain particles of 0.02 to 0.8 micrometers according to the European standard, their use against corona would therefore be quite suitable. Because in tests at least 94 per cent of the two test aerosols sodium chloride and Parrafinol were kept away.
Of course, this is not 100 percent protection. But that’s still no cause for concern, Ludwig said. Because smaller and fewer aerosols also means fewer virus particles. It takes more than just one or two viruses to become infected with Corona. It is not possible at present to say exactly how many particles are present, but it would take "quite a lot". Smaller particles contain so little virus that infection is very unlikely if handled correctly.
The fact that some manufacturers nevertheless point out in their instructions for use that the mask does not protect against viruses has to do with liability issues. Since they are not medical masks, they are not explicitly tested during production to determine how well they block viruses and bacteria.
What is an FFP2 mask??
Neubrandenburg. There are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks. The term FFP is derived from the English "Filtering Face Piece", translated as "particle-filtering half-masks", i.e. masks that do not cover the entire face. The numbers indicate the filter performance, i.e. what percentage of the aerosols are kept out.
According to one manufacturer, Uvex in Furth, Bavaria, FFP2 masks were originally produced as occupational safety masks for tradespeople, for example. In fact, they would also not be tested to see if they retain viruses like Sars-Cov-2. That is why they would not be advertised as corona masks.
However, independent organizations such as the RKI and the World Health Organization recommend these masks for medical personnel. And also the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BauA) confirms that FFP2 masks are a suitable protection against infectious aerosols, including viruses like the Corona virus.