In the closet, the surgical mask? The High Council of Public Health must soon issue an opinion on the generalization of the FFP2 mask. These masks, some of which have the shape of a duckbill, more filtering, could be an asset against the Omicron variant of Covid-19, much more contagious than its predecessors. Some countries have also decided to impose it in public places, such as Italy, Austria or Greece. Franceinfo takes stock of this protection, which is increasingly used by the general public.
Yes. It fits closer to the face than other types of masks, so it doesn't gape at the sides. It is also more filtering: it protects against the inhalation of droplets, like other masks, but also against that of particles suspended in the air. Composed of a facepiece and a filtration device, it offers its users a filtering capacity of 94% of fine and toxic particles of 0.6 micrometers.
According to a study (in English) by researchers from the universities of Göttingen (Germany) and Cornell (United States), if two people wear a correctly positioned FFP2 mask, the maximum risk of contamination between them is only 0.4%, even if they spend an hour together, compared to 30% for two people wearing surgical masks. The result is similar to authorized fabric masks, since the latter have a "close level of protection", or slightly "higher depending on the model, to that offered by surgical masks", according to the standardization body Afnor.
The National Institute for Research and Security (INRS) specifies that the FFP2 mask can be worn for eight hours, i.e. the average duration of a working day, compared to four hours for the other models.
FFP2 masks which contain graphene, a material widely used in electronics for its resistance and conductivity, must however be avoided as a precaution, due to a lack of data on the toxicity of this synthetic material, recommends the health security agency Anses .
In the hospital, the FFP2 mask is already used, in particular in the services receiving patients with Covid-19, in intensive care or in the surgical block. In anticipation of the end of year celebrations, the Scientific Council (PDF file) had also recommended it for "the most fragile or unvaccinated people, as soon as possible".
For the rest of the population, FFP2 masks are useful "when you really have a high risk of contagion, for example in transport with little or no ventilation or closed places", according to Philippe Amouyel, epidemiologist and professor of public health at the University Hospital. from Lille. On the other hand, no use "when you walk in the street", he believes.
“If everyone correctly wore a surgical or general public fabric mask, this would already significantly reduce the risk of contagion”, also estimates Didier Lepelletier, head of the hospital hygiene department of the Nantes University Hospital and expert from the High Council of Health. public.
Its effectiveness comes at a price. Individually, an FFP2 mask is generally between two and six times more expensive than a surgical mask. It is often necessary to count around 50 to 60 cents per FFP2 mask for an individual and between 30 and 40 cents for bulk orders from health professionals. But its price varies greatly depending on the type of sign.
The FFP2s are thus sold for 4.52 euros per box of 20 at Intermarché, or 23 cents per mask, the brand announced in early January, which specifies that this is the “cost price”.
A price barely lower than that charged in "Carrefour hypermarkets and supermarkets", where "the box of twenty" masks will cost you "4.90 euros", or only 24 cents per mask", notes Capital, in a comparison. In "all Leclercs in France, boxes of 20 FFP2 are offered to you at 7.90 euros, or 40 cents per mask", also details the newspaper, against "14.90 euros" at Franprix for "a similar box".
In pharmacies too, the differences are significant. Count "between 40 cents and 80 cents per mask" on average in pharmacies, according to the estimate for Capital by Philippe Besset, president of the Federation of Pharmaceutical Unions of France. Price variations which are explained by "the margin" that the brand or the pharmacy wants to make, but also by "the quantity of products purchased from suppliers and at what prices", according to Yolande Piris, distribution specialist, interviewed by the magazine. The more it buys in bulk, the lower the cost price and therefore the price displayed on the label.
Note that unlike its cousin the surgical mask, the law does not provide that the FFP2 mask can be distributed free of charge to people in precarious, vulnerable, Covid-19 positive or contact cases.
“There is no shortage” in the supply of FFP2 masks, assured Gabriel Attal, the government spokesperson, in early January on France Inter. "Supply channels are working," he added. A "state stock of masks has been replenished", with "several hundred million FFP2 masks", he said. The Directorate General for Health affirmed in January 2021 to LCI that Public Health France had in its possession – in addition to the stocks managed by the establishments – 406 million FFP2 masks, “i.e. 203% of the target stock corresponding to three weeks of epidemic crisis ".
A quantity which could nevertheless prove to be insufficient if these masks were to be imposed on a long-term basis by the government. The manufacture of FFP2 masks was almost at a standstill between April and October, "with a drop in production of around 90%" compared to 2020, underlines Christian Curel, the president of the union of F2M mask manufacturers on BFMTV . The number of jobs in the sector, estimated at 10,000, has even been "halved", especially in the face of Chinese competition. Local manufacturers – now 32 in number, compared to 4 at the start of the health crisis – now claim to be able to produce 20 to 25 million per week, according to France 2.
The FFP2 mask must cover the nose, mouth and chin. To check that the mask is properly put on, the National Institute for Research and Security (INRS), advises to check its tightness by covering "the filtering surface of the mask using a plastic sheet held in place with both hands. ". As you inhale, "the mask should smash slightly into the face." “If the mask does not flatten, it is not waterproof and it must be readjusted (…) Once adjusted, do not touch the mask with your hands and do not place it in the waiting position under the chin or on the forehead, to avoid contaminating the inside of the mask", also recalls the INRS.
Its wearing is more unpleasant than that of a fabric or surgical mask due to "thermal discomfort", and "respiratory resistance", warns ANSES. In addition, FFP2 masks are not suitable for all morphologies. A study carried out on caregivers from several countries, and published in September 2020 in the medical journal Anaesthesia, thus revealed that FFP2 and FFP3 masks could be correctly applied by 95% of men, but only 85% of women. Also, the masks were suitable for 90% of white people, compared to 84% of people of Asian descent. The proportion was particularly low, 60% on average, for Asian women.
According to the manufacturers, these are single-use masks. Nevertheless, and like surgical masks, FFP2 masks can be reused if they are put in the washing machine and in the dryer, assures UFC-Que Choisir. According to tests carried out by the consumer association, the performance of FFP2 masks remains the same after ten washes at 60°C and as many drying cycles.
"Our conclusions are not valid for use in a medical environment, where the surrounding bacterial load would require, at a minimum, a disinfection phase", nevertheless tempers the association.
No mask is suitable for a full beard. This is even truer with FFP2 masks, which are normally more fitted to the face than other masks. To maximize its effectiveness, it is therefore advisable to shave, or wear a thin beard.
Last spring, the firefighters of Indre-et-Loire were ordered to shave their beards and mustaches to optimize the adhesion of the FFP2 masks to their faces, reported France 3.
Yes, these are similar masks, with equivalent protection. The difference lies in the origin of the standards to which they meet: the FFP2 mask corresponds to the European standard NF EN149, while the KN95 meets the GB2626-2006 standard, in force in China and South Korea, recalls a document. of French customs (PDF).