For a while I was looking through different types of mask on the web for me to buy. The process of comparing so many masks and choosing a good product among them was very confusing. First of all, there were so many types, and since I had no understanding of the English initials and numbers in the names, I couldn't figure out what was good or bad. So, based on what I found from my searching, I would like to briefly summarize the mask grades and things to remember when buying a mask for those who have had or are having difficulty with finding mask like I did.
The mask class is marked differently according to the needs of each country. However, a common portion between all ratings is that the higher the number in the name, the better mask is.
In the United States, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health NIOSH manages the mask ratings. US masks are classified into 3 grades, N, R, and P, with each letter grade further divided into 3 grades of 100, 99 and 97, for a total of 9 grades. The letter grades are to categorize whether or not the mask blocks oil, and the numbers indicate how much 0.3μm fine dust it blocks. The P grade is the most powerful grade, and there is no limit to how long it can be used. On the other hand, the N grade is not resistant to oil. Products with high oil resistance are mainly used in industrial sites. In the case of the well-known N95 mask, it blocks 0.3μm particles but has no oil defense. Therefore, this grade, N95, is used a lot for medical purposes.
In Europe, the FFP (abbreviation for Filtering face piece) class established by the European Standardization Committee CEN is used, and this class is divided into FFP 3, FFP 2, and FFP 1. FFP3 blocks more than 99% of 0.6μm fine dust, FFP2 more than 94%, and FFP1 more than 80%.
In Korea, KF (abbreviation for Korea Filter) rating established by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is used. The KF grades are divided into three grades: KF99, KF94, and KF80, and the number after the KF represents the rate at which the mask filters the particles. KF99 and KF94 have passed both solid particle sodium chloride and oil tests, and prevent an average of 94% of harmful substances or viral particles. KF80 is a product that has only passed the sodium chloride test and blocks more than 80% of solid particulate microparticles. The higher the grade, the harder it is to breathe because the rate of air leakage between the mask and the face decreases. However, in terms of performance, the higher-grade ones, KF99 and KF94 do perform better than the KF80.
These are just three of the many rating systems used across the world. Like I said before, other countries will use different systems.
Since we've talked briefly about mask ratings, so now with the understanding of these ratings we can see what to look for when purchasing a good mask. Here are three things you should remember when buying a mask.
- Check which rating the mask has
As mentioned in the brief description above, it is important to first check which tests the mask you are trying to purchase has passed, and what grade it is. Since different countries have different systems, it is important to know which system it was rated under. Also, since there may be false products in some cases, it is necessary to carefully check the manufacturing plant and country of origin before you buy.
- Check the numbers
In most cases, when the numbers are high, the effect of preventing fine dust particles is higher. However, as the number increases, it may also become difficult to breathe. So, if you need to wear mask for a long time, a high-grade mask can be difficult to breathe. In particular, if you have asthma or have other respiratory health problems, you should consult a doctor and choose a mask appropriate for you. Especially if you need to wear it for a long time, you should be extra careful before purchasing.
- Check the filter
Like it was said in the previous article, you should make sure that the mask contains an MB filter that uses an electromagnetic field and captures fine particles. Check the previous article for more details: How 25,000 volts works in Mask.
For other helpful information, while looking for a mask, you will see the initials BFE and PFE. BFE is the rating for the virus particle blocking rate, while PFE is the rating for fine dust particle blocking rate. In the case of general-use masks, BFE is not tested, and PFE is mainly measured. So, if you find a mask that advertises that its BFE is high, you should double check whether or not it is actually a medical mask, because many countries ban the exports of medical masks.
I hope this article has been helpful to all of you who are looking for the right masks.
By Sue Kim