What you need to know about single-use medical face masks and protective masks

Type of masks

 In the current efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, there are 2 types of masks that can be recommended.


The transmission of infective agents during surgical procedures in operating theatres and in other medical settings can occur in several ways.

The main intended use of medical face masks is :

  • to protect the patient from infective agents and,
  • additionally, in certain circumstances to protect the wearer against splashes of potentially contaminated liquids or aerosols

Medical face masks may also be intended to be worn by patients and other persons to reduce the risk of spread of infections, particularly in epidemic or pandemic situations.

Indeed, a medical face mask with an appropriate microbial barrier can also be effective in reducing the emission of infective agents from the nose and mouth of an asymptomatic carrier or a patient with clinical symptoms.

 (The medical face masks fall under the Medical Device Regulation –  under the European standard EN 14683  type II or, with additional splash protection type IIR . The European Standard EN 14683 specifies requirements and test methods for medical face masks to limit the emission and transmission of infective agents.)

PPE MASKS (Personal Protective Equipment Mask)

Their main purpose is protection of the wearer. These PPE masks

  • filter the inhaled air protecting the wearer and some types also filter the exhaled air (protection towards the outside)
  • have levels recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization):
    • The FFP2 filters over 92% of the suspended particles
    • The FFP3 arrive at values equal to or greater than 98%;
  • must fit tightly to the face and be worn correctly
  • must be worn mainly by healthcare personnel as indicated by WHO

(Respiratory protective masks fall under Personal Protective Regulation. European standard EN 149 specifies performance requirements and test methods for FFP2 masks, or alternatively FFP3 (American similar standard protection levels are N95 / N99)

Correct ways to wear and dispose of the medical and personal protective equipment masks

In order to avoid (cross) contamination and spreading of the virus, it is important to use, wear and dispose of those disposable masks in the correct way.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has an excellent page that explains when and how to correct wear and dispose of a mask, we encourage everyone to read it before using disposals masks:

When and how to use masks !

The incorrect use of a mask might hamper its effectiveness to reduce risk of transmission.

With the current shortage of disposable masks and the priority given to supply hospitals, medical centres and healthcare professionals, we have witnessed an appeal to companies, organisations and the general public to produce masks to help the health care workers to protect themselves. This obviously with the best intentions in mind. We invite you to read the precaution statement issued by the European Safety Federation regarding the making of masks.

Disposable masks are single-use products, so once used they should be disposed of in the proper way and not re-used
For any questions please contact
Luminita Barbu

How medical masks are made

To understand how medical masks are made and what bottlenecks the supply chain is currently experiencing and what could be possible solutions , we invite you to read this infographic:


Read more about the use of nonwovens in medical and healthcare and use nonwovens in protective clothing.