Respirator & Filter Standards

Addressing Your Inquiries on Respirator Standards

Understanding Respirator Standards: Exploring P2, P3, FFP3, TH3, APF Factors, and More

Navigating the complexities of respirator standards can often seem daunting. The differences can be overwhelming, from distinguishing between P2, P3, FFP3, and TH3 ratings to understanding APF factors, half-masks, disposable masks, and powered respirators. Fortunately, you’ve arrived at the perfect resource. Below, we delve into all these topics to provide clarity and guidance.

Comprehensive Guide on Respiratory Protection:

  • Identifying the Right Mask for Your Needs.
  • Unravelling the Differences: P1, P2, and P3 Masks Explained.
  • Decoding TH Factors in Respiratory Protection.
  • Understanding APF Factors: What You Need to Know.
  • Exploring OEL and WEL Factors: Key to Respiratory Safety.
  • A Closer Look at Filter Types for Respiratory Masks.
  • Optimal Situations for Using Respiratory Protection.
  • Dive Deeper with Our Further Guides on Respiratory Safety.

This article is designed to provide all the essential information on respiratory masks, from choosing the appropriate type to understanding the critical factors influencing their effectiveness.

Choosing the Right Mask: A Comprehensive Guide

Selecting the appropriate mask is crucial for your safety, and understanding the different types available is the first step. Masks can be categorised into three main types: disposable masks, designed for single-shift use; half masks, with replaceable filters; and powered respiratory equipment for enhanced protection.

The required filter standard varies depending on your specific needs and tasks. Below, we break down these requirements to help you make an informed decision:

This combination typically includes low dust levels, which is not harmful to health.This combination is typically used for handling softwoods, metals, plastics (not PVC) and oil mists.
This combination is typically used for handling heavy materials such as hardwoods, brake dust, radioactive substances, and pathogens (such as viruses, bacteria, and fungal spores).
It is also used for stainless steel welding.  

Typically, P1 masks are classed as ‘dusk masks’, protecting from low quantities of non-harmful particles.

We do not sell this type of mask, as the protection offered is minimal.

Understanding the Differences: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 Respirators Compared

Deciphering the distinction between FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 respirators and comparing P1, P2, and P3 filters is essential for selecting the proper protection against particulate pollutants such as dust, smoke, and aerosols. This ensures enhanced health safety for users. Available in three protection levels, FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 respirators are standardized across the European Union in accordance with EN 149:2001+A1:2009 regulations.

The acronym FFP stands for ‘Filtering Face Piece’, with the subsequent number indicating the level of protection the respirator provides. The higher the number, the more effectively the mask filters airborne particles. Unlike masks with separate filters, FFP masks incorporate the filtering material directly into the mask fabric, making them disposable as they become clogged over time.

In contrast, P1, P2, and P3 filters are designed for both half and full-face masks, offering versatility in protection levels. P2 and P3 filters are effective against a wide range of harmful particles, aerosols, and other hazardous substances. The level of protection increases with the number, with P3 offering the highest degree of protection against more potent substances and in higher concentrations than P2 and P1 filters. These ratings are also standardized across the European Union, following EN 149:2001+A1:2009 for masks equipped with filters and EN 140:1998 for those without.

In summary, FFP masks are disposable options with built-in filters. In contrast, half or full-face masks are reusable and require interchangeable P-rated filters, allowing for a tailored approach to respiratory protection based on the specific hazards present.

What is a TH Factor?

Understanding TH1, TH2, and TH3 Ratings in Powered Air Respiratory Systems

Recently, we’ve all become more acquainted with various face mask ratings and their significance. However, the TH1, TH2, and TH3 ratings might not be as widely recognized as the FFP3 or P3 standards.

The TH ratings are crucial in assessing the inward leakage protection offered by powered air respiratory systems, encompassing three distinct levels of efficacy. These ratings are particularly relevant for respirators that provide full facial coverage, such as Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) or Air Fed Masks, which are designed to offer comprehensive protection.

The essence of TH ratings is to measure the effectiveness of the respiratory system in filtering out harmful fumes or particles. A key aspect of these ratings is their indication of the quantity of unfiltered air that can enter the system. A higher TH level signifies a more efficient system, with fewer outside particles breaching the filtration mechanism, ensuring superior protection against environmental pollutants.

TH1: Less than 10%
TH2: Less than 2%
TH3: Less than 0.2%

Assigned Protection Factor½ or ¼ Mask
plus Filter
½ Mask without
inhale valve
Valved Filtration
½ Mask
½ Mask
Full Face Mask
Plus Filter
Powered Filtering:
Helmets & Hoods
10P2 Gas X +P3FMP2
FM Gas X
FM Gas X +P3
FFGas X +P2
FM Gas X +P3
FFP2P2TH1 All Face Pieces
Gas X +P3
TH2 All Face Pieces
40P3TH3 Semi-Hood
Hood Blouse

What is an APF factor?

Exploring Assumed Protection Factors (APF) for Respiratory Safety in Hazardous Work Environments

Assumed Protection Factors (APF) play a pivotal role in safeguarding workers from hazardous substances by indicating the level of protection a respirator is designed to offer. This article delves into the specifics of APF, with a focus on the UK’s standards, though it’s important to note that different countries may adopt their own APF values or use Nominal Protection Factors (NPF) as alternatives.

APF levels are categorized into five distinct ratings: 4, 10, 20, 40, and 2000. Essentially, the higher the APF number, the more protective the respirator. APF quantifies the reduction in concentration of airborne contaminants inside the mask relative to the ambient environment. For instance, an APF of 10 signifies that the respirator filters out 90% of airborne contaminants, allowing only one-tenth of the pollutants to penetrate the mask. Similarly, an APF of 100 ensures that only 1% of the external contaminants enter the mask.

To accurately select a respirator with an appropriate APF, it’s crucial to first calculate the Required Protection Factor (RPF) by dividing the measured concentration of pollutants in the workplace by the permissible Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) set by local regulations. The chosen respirator’s APF must exceed the calculated RPF to ensure adequate protection.

For instance, if the RPF calculation yields a value of 5 (indicating a measured contaminant concentration five times higher than the allowable limit), a respirator with an APF of 10 or higher is necessary for sufficient protection.

Interestingly, an APF of 20 is generally equivalent to a P3 filter classification. However, specific devices like the CleanAir Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) boast an APF of 40 due to its TH3 rating, showcasing its superior efficacy compared to standard P3 filters. This demonstrates the importance of understanding and applying APF ratings to ensure optimal respiratory protection in hazardous work conditions.

Always check individual product specifications and manufacturers’ safety data sheets using this table as a guide.

Achieving the Highest UK APF Rating of 2000: SCBA Positive Pressure Respirators

In the realm of respiratory protection, Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) systems of the positive pressure class stand out as the only type to achieve the highest UK Assumed Protection Factor (APF) rating of 2000. These advanced systems, commonly utilised by firefighters to safely navigate oxygen-deficient environments, share similarities with SCUBA gear designed for underwater exploration.

Additionally, powered respiratory protection equipment that operates on a positive pressure mechanism is available. Unlike their negative pressure counterparts, these systems often bypass the need for face fit testing. Offering many advantages, such equipment tends to be lighter, more seamlessly integrates with other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and boasts a significantly extended lifespan of use.

What is an OEL or WEL factor?

Understanding Occupational and Workplace Exposure Limits: OEL and WEL

Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) and Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) are critical terms that define the maximum permissible exposure levels to chemical or physical hazards in the workplace over a standard duration, typically an 8-hour workday. These limits are designed to safeguard workers’ health by ensuring exposures do not exceed levels considered safe.

Air quality within the workplace is monitored to measure the concentration of hazardous substances to determine these limits. This data is then utilized to calculate the necessary level of protection for employees. This involves dividing the monitored concentration by the legally permitted exposure level to establish the protection factor required to ensure the safety and health of the workforce.

If in doubt, the best possible strategy is always to minimise or eliminate the risk, not just protect from it. If in doubt, seek expert advice for your particular situation.

What are the Filter Types?

Always Remember

Optimal Oxygen Levels and Respiratory Protection in Oxygen-Deficient Environments

The standard oxygen concentration in the atmosphere is 21%, with levels below 19.5% classified as oxygen-deficient. Under such conditions, conventional respiratory protection, including certain powered respiratory systems, proves inadequate. These systems rely on filtering ambient air, which cannot ensure the necessary safety in oxygen-deficient scenarios.

For effective protection in these environments, options include powered respiratory airline systems that draw air from a clean, uncontaminated source far from the low-oxygen zone or a sealed system using bottled air. The latter option provides the utmost level of protection, reflected in the highest Assumed Protection Factor (APF) ratings.

Furthermore, the importance of Face-Fit Testing cannot be overstated. This critical procedure is mandatory for all half-masks and full-face masks to secure the highest possible fit and protection level for the wearer. Ensuring a proper seal and fit is essential to maximise Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE) effectiveness in safeguarding against hazardous exposures.

Further Details:

Still looking for more information? Here is a simple guide on the HSE’s (Health and Safety Executive’s) website:

For further details about Face Fitting Services, please contact us.