What is a Respirator and what are the differences between them?

What is a Respirator and what are the differences between them?

Firstly, it’s important to highlight that a respirator is not a ventilator. A respirator is personal protective equipment (PPE) that can purify the air. A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient to breathe when lungs stop functioning as they normally would.

There are numerous types of respirators out there, designed for different uses and levels of threat to air quality. Essentially, some are more extreme than others, but the most commonly worn are Particulate Filters. Think of these filters as stopping small particles from being breathed in. These will not protect against gases or vapours.

For an airborne virus, like Coronavirus, the most sensible option for personal protection is a Particulate Filter known as Filtering Facepiece Respirator (FFR), which are sometimes called disposable respirators. As you might have guessed, this implies they are intended for singular or limited use.

For more information on how to look after, clean and maintain your FFR, click here.

Filtering Facepiece Respirators are subject to various regulatory standards around the world.

For respirators to claim compliance with the particular standard, certain physical properties and performance characteristics are required. During pandemic or emergency situations, health authorities often reference these standards when making respirator recommendations, stating, for example, that certain populations should use an “N95, FFP2, or equivalent” respirator.

Listed below are the prominent worldwide FFR regulatory standards

  • 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)
  • DS (Japan JMHLW-Notification 214, 2018)

How do they compare?

All of these FFRs resist against NaCl (Sodium Chloride). However, two of them also resist against paraffin oil (Europe and Korea’s standard).

Another notable comparison point of the above FFRs is the flow rates specified by these standards for the inhalation and exhalation resistance tests.

  • Inhalation resistance testing flow rates range from 40 to 160L/min.
  • Exhalation resistance testing flow rates range from 30 to 95 L/min.

Each standards’ requirements for breathing resistance (also called “pressure drop”) differ from each other. However, given typical pressure curves for respirator filters, the standards’ various pressure drop requirements are actually quite similar.

Based on this comparison, it is reasonable to consider China KN95, Australia/New Zealand AS/NZ P2, Korea 1st Class, and Japan DS FFRs as “equivalent” to US NIOSH N95 and European FFP2 respirators, for filtering non-oil-based particles such as those resulting from wildfires, PM 2.5 air pollution*, volcanic eruptions, or bioaerosols** (including viruses).

However, prior to selecting a respirator, users should consult their local respiratory protection regulations and requirements or check with their local public health authorities for selection guidance.

Click here to purchase your required Medik Store Respirator now.

* Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is an air pollutant that is a concern for people's health when levels in air are high. PM2.5 are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. As they small and light, they stay in the air longer than heavier particles, increasing the chance of humans and animals inhaling them. It can be either human-made or naturally occurring. Some examples include dust, ash and sea-spray.

** Bioaerosols: biological aerosols are a subcategory of particles released from terrestrial and marine ecosystems into the atmosphere. They consist of both living and non-living components, such as fungi, pollen, bacteria and viruses.