Faculty of Physical Culture guidebook takes you through the ins and outs of face masks and respirators

Graphic: Lukáš Ondrášek
Wednesday 18 November 2020, 15:35 – Text: Martin Višňa

As opposed to the spring wave of the coronavirus epidemic, when there was a lack of equipment for protecting breathing passages, now there is quite a large scale of various types of face masks and respirators available. For better orientation in choosing suitable equipment, Pavel Otřísal of the UP Faculty of Physical Culture has created a guide according to their labelling and effectiveness.

According to the guarantor of the study programme Physical Education Aimed at the Education and Protection of the Populace, not all people when looking for a suitable means of protection are correctly grounded in their specifications, so they could have problems in differentiating the level of provided protection according to the product’s labelling.

“Respirators or filtration half-masks against particles for protection of respiratory passages fall under various regulation norms globally which specify certain required physical properties and performance characteristics of the protection devices. I made an analysis of respirators on the basis of studies and compared these norms and technical standards. I also employed materials available on the Internet. Some of them were not very unified and so I had to correctly explain some facts,” said Prof Otřísal, who in his analysis informs readers with comparisons of mostly European, Chinese, and American standards, primarily on the basis of respirator filtration effectiveness.

The individual standards state the minimum amount of particles 300 nanometres or larger in diameter which respirators filter or catch. The FFP2 label, which is derived from European norms and indicates a filtering efficiency of 94%, is comparable to the label N95. FFP3, with an efficiency of 99%, is comparable to products labelled N99 and N100.

“The best protection is given by respirators in the FFP3 category, which have a filtering efficiency of over 99 percent. For protection against the Covid-19 virus, FFP2 respirators can be used, but they must be marked as “anti-Covid-19 / FFP2”. With respect to the nanomembrane (made from nanofibres) technology used, respirators labelled FFP2 have a measured efficiency of 98.5%. For this purpose they are quite adequate and in price comparison the best option to protect oneself against the coronavirus,” added Prof Otřísal, who previously served at the NBC Defence Institute at the University of Defence in Brno.

For community use, respirators or face masks of lower certification classes (FFP1, KN90, KP90) are suitable if worn properly, providing a higher level of protection than regular healthcare and non-healthcare masks. “Using respiratory protection is one of the most important preventive measures which helps limit the spread of respiratory diseases. Despite this, use of quality respiratory protection without other measures is simply not enough. They must always be combined with avoidance of contamination, adequate hygiene, and frequent handwashing,” Otřísal concluded.

The guide to respirator labelling can be found here.

An overview of the efficiency of respirators can be found here.