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Written on 18/04/24 by Linda T.

Face masks: complete protection

A face mask or respiratory mask is a piece of personal protective equipment that can protect against environmental particles such as:

 

  • Fine dust
  • Microorganisms
  • Fumes
  • Vapours
  • Gases

 

Thanks to high levels of filtration, these devices protect the person exposed to daily risks at work. Depending on the characteristics, the device's function is different: the respirator must be selected according to the risks faced.

  

There are two main types of face masks:

 

Air purifiers  Air respirators 

 

Ventilation facemasks

Ventilation masks can be divided into two main categories:

 

1) Free ventilation

Air purifiers belong to this type. Through the effort produced by the user's breathing, the devices manage to deliver breathable air by filtering out contaminated particles.

 

2)  Assisted ventilation

This type belongs to air purifiers as there is a motorised system capable of supplying breathable air by automatically helping the user breathe clean air.

 


 

Frequently asked questions

  

A question that many times arises when talking about face masks is:

 

What are face mask filters used for? 

The filters that are inserted in the masks are what make this type of protection possible. They are intended to trap polluting dust in both solid and airborne forms.

When it comes to filters, however, it is essential to be aware that, depending on the colour, the functioning of the filtration changes.

 

Let us see it in detail:

 

COLOUR PROTECTION FROM
(Type P) WHITE Dust, solids and toxic liquids
(Type A) BROWN Organic gases or vapours, solvents and hydrocarbons
(Type B) GREY Inorganic gases or vapours
(Type E) YELLOW Acids, sulphur dioxide and hydrochloric acid
(Type K) GREEN Ammonia and its organic derivatives
(Type CO) BLACK Carbon monoxide
(Type Reactor) ORANGE Iodine
(Type NO-P3) BLUE-WHITE Nitrogen oxides and nitrous vapour, and dust
(Type Hg-P3) RED-WHITE Mercury vapour and dust

 

Some filters can be combined so that they can perform several functions.

When it comes to the service life of a filter, it is not easy to associate a precise duration with it because everything depends on humidity, air consumption, temperature and many other phenomena. Usually, it is understood that the filter absolutely must be replaced when the user begins to perceive odours. 

A further doubt that plagues many people when purchasing a face mask is:

 

But are there reusable face masks?

There are disposable (cheaper) and reusable (more expensive) models of respirators. The former is also known as masks or dust masks, while the latter is often associated with gas masks. 

Among the reusable models, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of masks:

 

  • Semi-face masks

mascherine semifacciali 

  • Full-face or full-protection masks  

mascherine facciali

The former protects only the mouth, nose and chin, while the latter offers full facial protection. The latter is what we call gas masks and are used when there is a risk of damaging eyesight. For this reason, these devices cover the nose, mouth, chin and eyes.

Face masks make it possible to breathe safely while also protecting the eyes.

 

Before purchasing a face mask, you need to know that these devices must follow very specific regulations to be considered personal protective equipment.

 

European standards for face mask filters

 

The standards that a filter suitable for personal protection must follow are:

 

  • EN 141 establishes the minimum requirements that gas filters and combination filters must meet.
  • EN 143 specifies the standards for dust filters. These are divided into 3 categories:
  • P1) capable of protecting against solid dust.
  • P2) and P3) capable of removing solid particles and mists 
  • EN 371 specifies the requirements for filters for organic compounds.
  • EN 372 identifies the standards that filters for specific compounds must meet.
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