How to use a mask

Description of standards for breathing masks

Filtering face masks (FFM), sometimes referred to as disposable respirators, are subject to different regulatory standards worldwide. These standards define certain required physical properties and performance characteristics to enable the respirators to claim compliance with the respective standard. In pandemic or emergency situations, health authorities often refer to these standards when making recommendations for respirators, such as that certain population groups should use "N95, FFP2 or equivalent" respirators.

This comparison is used to make comparisons between the criteria for masks of this type:

  • N95 (United States NIOSH-42CFR84)
  • FFP2 (Europe EN 149-2001)
  • KN95 (China GB2626-2006)
  • P2 (Australia/New Zealand AS/NZA 1716:2012)
  • Korea 1st class (Korea KMOEL - 2017-64)

As can be seen in the table below, it can be assumed that masks certified in one of these standards have equivalent properties.

Maskentyp /
Community-MaskeMund-Nasen-SchutzFiltrierende Halbmasken
Abkürzung /
DIY-Maske; Behelfs-Mund-Nasen-MaskeMNS / Operations- (OP)MaskeFFP2 / FFP3-Maske
VerwendungszweckPrivater GebrauchFremdschutzEigenschutz / Arbeitsschutz
Medizinprodukt bzw.
MTestung und
Zertifizierung / Zulassung
Norm DIN EN 14683:2019-6CE-Zertifikat
Norm DIN EN 149:2001-10CE-Zertifikat
Schutzwirkungi.d.R. nicht nachgewiesen;durch das Tragen können
Geschwindigkeit des Atemstroms oder
Speichel-/Schleim-Tröpfchenauswurfs reduziert
werden und die Masken können das Bewusstsein
für social distancing sowie gesundheitsbezogenen
achtsamen Umgang mit sich und anderen unterstützen
Schutz vor Tröpfchenauswurf des TrägersSchutz des Trägers vor festen und
flüssigen Aerosolen
Quelle: Bundesministerium für Arzeneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM)

Community masks

These masks are purely makeshift masks and are often produced according to instructions on the Internet but currently also by small companies. These masks are better than no mask. The more fashionable appearance should not hide the possible lack of protection.

Corresponding simple mouth-nose masks are usually not sufficient for medical mouth-nose protection or personal protective equipment such as filtering half masks, respirators. These masks are not subject to any standard requirements, have not been tested, standardised or bear a CE mark.

Wearers of the described "community masks" cannot rely on them to protect them or others against transmission of SARS-CoV-2, no corresponding protective effect has been proven.

Medical mouth and nose protection

A medical mouth and nose protector (also called mouth-nose-protection, disposeable mask) usually protects our fellow human beings. If it is tight and tightly fitting, it can also protect the wearer of the mask to a limited extent. However, this is not guaranteed, as the MNS has not been tested and designed for this purpose. The original purpose of the mask is to prevent droplets from the air breathed by the wearer from entering a patient's wound.

This mask therefore offers the wearer little protection against droplets or carcinogenic aerosols. Especially not if these have been greatly accelerated by coughing or sneezing.

Filtering half masks (FFP2, FFP3)

Filtering half masks or also respiratory masks are part of occupational safety and are often used where the wearer is exposed to strong environmental stress. These masks are subject to the European standard EN149:2001+A1:2009, as well as other international standards, e.g. NIOSH and GB2626-2006, where the classifications FFP2, N95, KN95 are almost identical. However, high quality KN95 masks can also comply with the FFP3 standard, but this must be proven separately.

These respirators are additionally divided into two basic types. Masks with valve and masks without exhalation valve. For your own protection and the protection of others, only masks without an exhalation valve should be used at present.

Within the scope of the tested characteristics, filtering half masks offer maximum protection for the wearer and fellow human beings during inhalation and exhalation. The high-tech filter materials usually lose their effect after 24 hours, after which the mask should be replaced. But masks worn by the wearer himself are better classified than the masks mentioned above. These should be treated urgently according to the guidelines of the RKI germany and the Federal Government.

Source: BfArM recommendation for the use of all types of masks

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