What is a respirator?

There has been a lot of discussion about differences between medical masks and respirators. We’ve had an article that explains what a medical mask is in the EU, here, we summarise what a respirator is, which is equivalent to N95 in the US.

A respirator is a type of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and it is in the form of a half mask is a tight-fitting protection around the nose, mouth and chin. They filter the air from dust, smoke, aerosols, fibers, gas and steam. 

In the EU, the standard: SS-EN 149 + A1 is applied for half-mask respirator. These equipment have been tested with practical performance tests, flame tests, oil resistance, breathability, and mechanical stress tests. They have also been tested to find out the determination of dust clogging, the particulate filter penetration and the leakage. 

There are three different types of half masks: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. In the USA, these respirators are called N95, and certified by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). 

FFP masks are available with or without valves. The exhalation valve on the mask allows air and moisture to escape from the mask. This makes them more comfortable to wear for longer periods. However, a valve makes the mask feel bulkier. 

In a clinical setting, when the mask is worn to protect against airborne viruses, the valve is NOT desirable because it allows unfiltered air to leave the mask from the wearer. In these situations, a mask without a valve protects both the wearer and those in the vicinity of the wearer. If the ventilated masks are the only type available, a surgical mask should be worn over it to increase the protection of those around the wearer.

Remember: Respirators sold in the EU MUST be CE marked!



Filter Penetration Limit (at 95 l / min air flow)


Inward leakage


Filters 80% of all airborne particles



Filters 94% of all airborne particles



Filters 99% of all airborne particles



 Read more on European Safety Federation about respirator.