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Dust Mask Ratings: FFP1 vs FFP2 vs FFP3 - The Ultimate Guide

Here is everything you need to know about dust mask ratings. After reading, you should know the different dust mask protection levels and the rating system used in respiratory PPE. You should also have a good idea of which respirator rating you will require for the job you need to do.

What Is A Dust Mask For?

Silly question, but we need to start somewhere...

Disposable or half-face dust masks offer respiratory protection against particulate hazards and airborne particles like dusts, powders and aerosols (aka: Aqueous Fog). That is, they filter out bad stuff from the air you breath so you don't inhale poisons or hazardous dust particulates.

Dust masks are vital for a range of industries: construction, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and even for your DIY projects at home. The FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 ratings offer different levels of protection so it is vital you find the correct level of protection you need from a respirator.

The Safety Acronyms Used...

Respiratory protection in the form of disposable dust masks come in three respirator ratings: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 - FFP stands for "Filtering FacePiece" and the number denotes the level of protection. Many people shorten these acronyms even more as P1, P2 & P3 - but the meaning and level of respiratory protection is the same.

Some people refer to these ratings as respirator codes, respirator filter codes, or respirator grades but we are essentially discussing the very same things.

Each of these types of mask will specify their suitability for the "Occupational Exposure Limit" (OEL) and their "Assumed Protection Factor" (APF).

We use these acronyms throughout this article, and they are in common use within the H&S industry, so you would do well to try and remember them.

When choosing a dust mask you need to determine which dust mask ratings you need for your workplace hazards (although your employer should identify the hazards for you and provide the correct PPE) or your home DIY hazard.

Worker Cutting Stone in Dust Cloud
The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust.

Why You Should Wear A Dust Mask

Workers often choose not to wear a dust mask because it feels uncomfortable, men may need to shave everyday (so the mask fits correctly on the face), it may interfere with other PPE (such as their goggles or face screen), other people on site do not wear them and they want to fit in, and many other factors.

However, the risks of not wearing the correct respirator mask with the correct ratings are many and you could develop harmful and life threatening lung conditions.

A dust mask can protect you from developing painful coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing - as well as more serious long-term or terminal conditions like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even mesothelioma.

Image Credit: HSE

When it comes to your health & safety, it is better to be safe than sorry.

The mask should be tight fitting, and a fit test should always be performed when fitting a new mask.

A HSE paper on respiratory diseases (pdf) from 2018 makes for sobering reading. There are 12,000 deaths associated with respiratory hazards after long-term exposure and 18,000 estimated new cases of self-reported work-related breathing or lung problems ANNUALLY. (Citation from HSE)

Please do not become a statistic - Choose the right dust mask for the hazards around you.

Incorrect respiratory protection
This is Bob - a potential Darwin Awards winner - don't be like Bob.

Below is a quick guide to these three types of dust mask: ffp1, ffp2, ffp3 - the differences

FFP1 Dust Masks

What does a P1 filter protect against?

  • Protects against low levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Can be used for hand sanding, drilling, and cutting.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 4x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 4x limit.
Buy P1 Dust Masks HereA Collection of P1 Masks

FFP2 Dust Masks

What does a P2 filter protect against?

  • Protects against moderate levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Higher protection than FFP1
  • Can be used for plastering and sanding.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 12x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 10x limit.
Buy P2 Dust Masks HereA Collection of P2 Masks

FFP3 Dust Masks

What does a P3 filter protect against?

  • Protects against higher levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Higher protection than FFP1, and FFP2.
  • Can be used for handling hazardous powders such as those in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Recommended when in doubt of protection needed.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 50x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 20x limit.
Buy P3 Dust Masks HereA Collection of P3 Masks

A P3 filter or mask would be the minimum required face mask for chemical fumes, but we would recommend a Half Face Respirator with a P3 Cartridge Filter rather than a disposable dust mask.

How to choose between mask ratings

  • Identify type and level of contaminant exposure.
  • Evaluate airborne hazards in workplace (or workshop).
  • Choose mask based on FFP rating.
  • Choose a comfortable and convenient mask.
  • The occupational exposure limit is the upper limit on acceptable concentration, and is set by national authorities. When in doubt go with a higher level of protection.
Protection Level OEL Protection AFL Protection
FFP1 4x 4x
FFP2 12x 10x
FFP3 50x 20x

Maintenance of your respiratory protection

  • Ensure your respirators are the correct type and safety rating for the intended use.
  • Check regularly for damage - do not attempt to repair, replace any damaged masks.
  • Discard or clean if breathing becomes affected by blockages or overuse
  • Always replace when needed.
  • Clean non-disposable equipment daily or as needed in between.
  • Keep an inventory of stock, and reorder when low.
  • Make sure your PPE meets regulation standards and protects your workers.

Dust masks available online at Xamax Workplace Solutions

There are many different types of dust mask, both disposable and reusable available at Xamax, here are some examples of each mask rating to give you some idea of what is available to buy.

Portwest FFP1 (P1) Valved Dust Mist Respirator

Image of an FFP1 rated Dust Mask
FFP1 Disposable Dust Mask
  • Meets EN 149 FFP1 standards.
  • Cup shape.
  • Exhalation valve for lighter breathing resistance.
  • Adjustable nose clip for optimised fit.
  • Image shown: Portwest P101 FFP1 type Dust Mask
Buy Box of 10 P101 FFP1 HerePortwest P101

Portwest FFP2 (P2) Dust Mist Respirator

Image of a FFP rated dust mask
FFP2 Dust Mask with formed facial cage
  • Meets EN 149 FFP2 standards.
  • Cup shape.
  • Adjustable nose clip for optimised fit.
  • Image Shown: Portwest P271 FFP2 type Dust Mask
Buy Box of 10 P271 FFP2 HerePortwest P101

Portwest FFP3 (P3) Valved Dust Mist Fume Respitator

Image of a FFP3 rated dust mask
FFP dust mask with valve
  • Meets EN 149 FFP3 standard.
  • Cup shape.
  • Exhalation valve for lighter breathing resistance.
  • Adjustable nose clip for optimised fit.
  • Whole around “O” ring face joint for maximal comfort.
  • Wide elastic bands.
  • Product Shown: Portwest P391 FFP3 type Dust Mask
Buy Box of 10 P391 FFP3 HerePortwest P101

Portwest Basic Dust Mask 

  • Effective against pollen, common household dust and other non toxic particles. 
  • Image Show: Portwest P005 basic dust mask
  • These are not for sale by Xamax due to their lack of protection for workplace hazards

Do you know for certain that your workplace is PPE compliant?

A quick read of this article on the current PPE regulations will soon tell you.

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