During the coronavirus pandemic, there is a high demand for masks.

However, there are 2 main classifications of masks and many names that vary depending on the area and this can lead to confusion.


Mask Classifications

Masks are typically classified either as:

  1. Medical Devices – these will be non-filtering face masks meant to protect others & the environment
  2. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – these are air filtering respirator masks meant to protect the wearer from airborne risks


Names for medical device classified masks

Medical device face masks typically look like this:

surgical masks

They are commonly called:

  • Surgical masks
  • Face masks
  • Medical face masks
  • Procedure masks

The face masks for medical use are commonly classified as Class I, II, or IIR. They are all designed to protect others and the environment from the wearer, and the classes differ in terms of increased Bacterial Filtering Efficiency, breathability (II & IIR), and if they’re splashproof (IIR).


Names for PPE classified respirators

Respirators may be known as respirator masks, protective face masks, PPE face masks, respiratory protection masks, and FFPs. They are designed to filter the air the wearer breathes, thus protecting them. They typically look like this:

FFP respirator

In the USA & Canada, they are usually classified by their designation which focuses on their aerosol filtration effectiveness (not less than 95%, 99%, or 100%*).

So we will see respirators named:

  • N95
  • N99
  • N100

‘N’ means non-oil resistant. The designations of ‘R’ (oil-resistant) and ‘P’ (long life oil-resistant) also exist.

In China, they follow the same classification and we see:

  • KN95
  • KN99
  • KN100

Europe is a little different, as respirator masks there are known as FFPs (Filtering Facepiece Particles) and are classified to different levels of aerosol filtration effectiveness (not less than 80, 94, 99 for EN 149-FFP3, and 99.95% for EN 143-P3*).

Therefore, we see these 3 classifications:

  • FFP1 (80%)
  • FFP2 (94%)
  • FFP3 (99/99.95%)*

‘N95’ masks are the most popular respirator masks for medical protection, and so buyers will be looking for N95, KN95, FFP2 masks.

Coronavirus medical supplies information hub

Are you buying face masks from China to import and need help to reduce your risks? Perhaps you want a better understanding of the certifications and regulations involved?

We have collected this information and solutions we provide to help reduce your risks for you in a special page:

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