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FFP2, N95 and Co.: Pay attention to this when buying protective masks

    In Germany and also in many other countries there is currently a big discussion about protective masks. Everyday masks, medical face masks, particle-filtering half masks – with the many variations, you can hardly see through the corona crisis. The question is: What can they do and how can counterfeits be detected?


    What can an FFP2 mask do?


    The “gold standard” in germany is currently the FFP2 mask (ffp = filtering face piece). Originally in use as occupational safety masks, it is also used as effective protection against corona viruses. The “particle-filtering half mask” is designed to filter particles, droplets and aerosols, at least 94 percent. In the case of FFP3 masks, the filtering power is 99 percent. FFP2 masks are available with and without a breathing valve. Without a valve, they protect both sides: the wearer himself and the person opposite.


    How to recognize a good mask?


    How well a mask actually filters can hardly be judged at first glance. One of the features that characterizes a certain standard is the CE marking. The letters CE stand for “Conformité Européenne“, in other words “European conformity“. This means that the manufacturer undertakes to comply with certain European standards. The industry has agreed on these standards throughout Europe.


    For medical devices of a certain risk class – including FFP masks – it applies that these products or the documents are tested by a “notified body“. This can be a testing institute chosen by the manufacturer himself. If the masks pass the conformity test, the CE mark with a test number may be printed on the products. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can also consult this declaration of conformity at the manufacturer’s or dealer’s premises. However, the CE mark alone does not provide information about the mask’s place of origin.


    What do the abbreviations N95 and KN95 mean?


    Masks with these abbreviations can also be found in stores or on the Internet. The abbreviations N95 and KN95 stand for high mask standards from the USA (N95) and China (KN95). They are functionally equivalent to FFP2 masks. When there were not enough protective masks available in spring at the beginning of the pandemic, the German government relaxed the import regulations for personal protective equipment. As a result, masks with foreign standards were also allowed to be imported. In the meantime (as of October 1, 2020), the special permit has been revoked.


    How can I be safe from fraud?


    The great demand for masks has created a kind of gold-rush atmosphere. Many companies – even those that have nothing else to do with medical devices – have tried to import masks in the hope of making a quick buck. Among the imported masks there were always fake goods. The price and the distribution channel do not necessarily allow conclusions about the quality. But you should be careful with unusually cheap masks. In any case, it makes sense to look for the CE mark with the four-digit test number. One of the most renowned stores for FFP2 masks in Germany is – which has a wide range of CE-certified masks in its assortment. 


    HealthMask is one of 2 stores in Germany that sell the Kingfa FFP2 mask which achieved the best test result in a recent test conducted by ZDF Wiso Magazin.