The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and European Norms (ENs) employ different test protocols for evaluation of air-purifying particulate respirators commonly referred to as filtering facepiece respirators (FFR). The relative performance of the NIOSH-approved and EN-certified 'Conformité Européen' (CE)-marked FFR is not well studied. NIOSH requires a minimum of 95 and 99.97% efficiencies for N95 and P100 FFR, respectively; meanwhile, the EN requires 94 and 99% efficiencies for FFRs, class P2 (FFP2) and class P3 (FFP3), respectively. To better understand the filtration performance of NIOSH- and CE-marked FFRs, initial penetration levels of N95, P100, FFP2 and FFP3 respirators were measured using a series of polydisperse and monodisperse aerosol test methods and compared. Initial penetration levels of polydisperse NaCl aerosols [mass median diameter (MMD) of 238 nm] were measured using a method similar to the NIOSH respirator certification test method. Monodisperse aerosol penetrations were measured using silver particles for 4-30 nm and NaCl particles for 20-400 nm ranges. Two models for each FFR type were selected and five samples from each model were tested against charge neutralized aerosol particles at 85 l min(-1) flow rate. Penetrations from the 238 nm MMD polydisperse aerosol test were <1% for N95 and FFP2 models and <0.03% for P100 and FFP3 models. Monodisperse aerosol penetration levels showed that the most penetrating particle size (MPPS) was in the 30-60 nm range for all models of FFRs tested in the study. Percentage penetrations at the MPPS were <4.28, <2.22, <0.009 and <0.164 for the N95, FFP2, P100 and FFP3 respirator models, respectively. The MPPS obtained for all four FFR types suggested particle capturing by electrostatic mechanism. Liquid isopropanol treatment of FFRs shifted the MPPS to 200-300 nm and dramatically increased polydisperse as well as monodisperse aerosol penetrations of all four FFR types indicating that all the four FFR types share filtration characteristics of electret filters. Electrostatic charge removal from all four FFR types also increased penetration levels of 400-1000 nm range particles. Particle penetration data obtained in this study showed that the eight models of NIOSH-approved N95 and P100 and CE-marked FFP2 and FFP3 respirators used in this study provided expected levels of laboratory filtration performance against nanoparticles.