Respirators are very useful when working in an area that is contaminated with hazardous air particles. These respirators protect you from all those harmful gases, fumes, dusts, vapors, mists, and other airborne contaminants which if inhaled can cause various ill effects to your health.
There are many kinds of respirators available in market today and each one provides different level of protection to the wearer. It must be remembered that you must always wear a proper respirator that are NIOSH approved and are of better quality. Some respirators come with attached filters and each filter serves different purpose.
Picking up the right air purifying respirator for you seems a tough job. With so many respirators available today, it can be difficult to recognize what you actually need to decontaminate your air supply. You must choose the respirator according to the work condition so that it can provide you a complete protection. In this guide we will discuss about several air purifying respirators and will help you make the proper selection.
Types of Air-Purifying Respirators
The first thing to remember while selecting a respirator is determining whether you prefer a disposable or reusable unit. Disposable respirators are those which provide protection against dust particles are generally known as dust masks.
They cover your half face under your nose and typically used for protection against airborne particles. These respirators are not reusable and should be worn only once.
You should dispose them after single use. Reusable respirators are those that can cover your half face as well as full face depending upon the design of the mask. These respirators are better than disposable masks in many ways and can offer protection not only against airborne particulates, but gases, fumes and vapors as well.
Most of the reusable respirators come with filter/cartridges attached to them. These filters and cartridges are reusable and should be changed after 40 hours of work.
Each filter and cartridges severs different purpose and you should choose them according to your needs. The type of cartridges or filters you will need to purchase is dependent on the level of protection you desire.
Disposable Air-Purifying Respirators
Particulate respirators or dust masks are designed to prevent you from airborne particulates that are present in environment where grinding, sanding, sweeping and other dusty operations occur. Many of these respirators are approved by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) after performing a test on them. When buying a disposable air purifying respirator you must only purchase that which is approved by NIOSH. Furthermore these masks are grouped into three distinct groups: N-Series, R-Series and P-Series. Each of this group serves different protection and again they have three different efficiency possibilities: 95, 99 and 100.
N-Series (N95, N99 and N100)
N series respirators are those that provide protection against solid and liquid aerosol particulates that do NOT contain oil. These N series respirators do not provide any protection against oil based particulates. You can use these masks in the area of working which contain dust particles related to coal, iron ore, flour, metal, wood and pollen and non-oil based liquids.
Difference between N95, N99 and N100 is simply the filter’s efficiency level. For example N95 = NOT Resistant to solids and liquids which contain oil and provides 95% efficiency, N99= they are much better than N95 and provides 99% efficiency and N100= these respirators are better than N95 and N100 and provides nearly 99.5% protection against solids and liquids that do not have oil.
Among these three N95 are commonly used dusts masks and are easily available in the market. Also, never use a damaged mask else it would not provide you the protection you want.
R-series respirators are those which provide protection against both solid and liquid aerosol particulates that may contain oil. This series of respirators are least used because they have very limited life of 8 hours of service.
P-Series (P95 & P100)
P series disposable respirators are better than both N and R series in terms of protection they provide and its life. These respirators are also similar to R series in a way that they provide protection against both solid and liquid aerosol particulates that may contain oil. The best part is that they are superior to R series and can be used for long working hours. These can be used for 40 hours or 30 days whichever comes first.
As discussed above reusable respirator are way better than disposable masks in many ways. They offer better protection to the wearer and are ideal for those who may be exposed to multiple elements, as they are capable to protect the wearer from more than just particulate matter, if needed. Generally there are two types of reusable respirators:-
1. Half face respirator
2. Full face respirator
You can use either half face respirator or full face respirator depending upon the level of exposure and/or comfort level. Regardless of type of facepiece (half face of full face), these respirators require combination of filters/cartridges.
There are different types of filters/cartridges available in market and they all serves different purpose and provide protection against different hazards.
Gas & Vapor Cartridges
There are different kinds of filters/cartridges available that provide protection against gas and vapors.
If you want protection against organic vapor such as acetone, then you needs to attach these filters/cartridges to your half face or full face respirator.
Moreover, your selection of the appropriate respirator cartridge will depend on the gas or vapor that is present.
Particulate filters are those which provide protection against harmful contaminants present in the air. These filters are generally divided into two categories:-
- P2 Particulate filters
- P3 Particulate filters
P2 particulate filters have 95% filtration efficiency and they are used for different kind of work job.
There are many types of P2 particulate filters available and each one is designed to specific task. Example, few P2 respirators will provide protection against ammonia while other will not.
In this case you must get yourself educated to know which type of filter is required for what kind of work.
P3 particulate filters are much better than P2 filters and provide higher level of protection when compared to P2.
P particulate filters have 99.5% filtration efficiency and they are used for different kind of works.
- Each set of filters should be replaced after 40 hours of work or when it gets tough to breathe through them.
- You should never use any damaged filter and it should be replaced immediately.
- Please choose the correct set of filters depending upon the type of work you will do using them.
- Always read the owner manual carefully that comes with filter set.
- Do not wash filters else they will get damaged. You should only wash the facepiece of the respirator.
- Dispose the filters once they get wet and/or damaged.
- After use please keep filters in a properly sealed bag in a dry place and away from direct sunlight.