N95 vs P2 face masks

"N95" is a US standard for respirator masks. "P2" is its Australian/New Zealand equivalent, offering a comparable level of protection to wearers.

It is now mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops in England. Face coverings will be compulsory in more indoor spaces from 8 August including cinemas, museums and places of worship. Full advice on our masks hub here.

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With mask wearing on the up around the world, it’s smart to question what level of protection different types of masks can offer. P2 is an Australian/New Zealand standard that’s typically considered equivalent to the EU FFP2 standard, the US N95 standard and the Chinese KN95 standard.

The World Health Organization has advised that healthcare workers “should use a particulate respirator at least as protective as a US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified N95, European Union (EU) standard FFP2, or equivalent”.

However, there are subtle differences between the performance requirements that N95 and P2 masks must stand up to under testing, as you can see in our comparison below.

N95 and P2 respirators compared

N95 P2
Example an n95 protective face mask a p2 protective face mask
Conforms to USA: NIOSH (42 CFR 84) AUS/NZ: AS/NZ 1716:2012
Minimum filter efficiency requirement 95% 94%
Filter efficiency tested using Sodium chloride Sodium chloride
Filter efficiency test flow rate 85l/min 95l/min
Filter efficiency test particle diameter 0.3 microns (approx.) 0.3 microns (approx.)
Maximum exhalation valve leakage 30ml/min at -2.45mbar 30ml/min at -2.5mbar
Maximum CO2 concentration increase N/A 1%
Maximum total inward leakage requirement N/A 8%
Maximum permitted inhalation resistance 3.43mbar at 85l/min 0.7mbar at 30l/min
2.4mbar at 95l/min
Maximum permitted exhalation resistance 2.45mbar at 85l/min 1.2mbar at 85l/min

Sources: Smart Air, 3M, Health and Safety Executive

N95 face mask - 1, 2, 20, 50 or 100 packs from £3.50
N95 face mask - 1, 2, 20, 50 or 100 packs from £3.50

CBD Armour

The verdict

Ultimately, there’s not a lot in it. These two certifications can broadly be considered equivalents, adhering to different regional standards. The two certifications can also be considered broadly comparable to the EU’s FFP2 standard.

The N95 boasts a filter efficiency of 95% compared to the P2’s 94%, but the P2 is tested at a higher flow rate. A P2 mask may offer better breathability, but don’t forget that masks conforming to the same certification can be made by different manufacturers and so may differ in performance (subject to those minimum standards).

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N95 and respirator masks


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