The respiratory (breathing) mechanism is the fastest and most direct route of entry into the circulatory system for many toxic chemicals. Today, we are faced with a wide variety of activities at home and beyond that simultaneously expose us to a spectrum of hazardous pollutants in the air. A good and practical respirator is all we need to protect us against all forms of air pollutants, from spraying pesticides and paint to removing mold and asbestos.
Wearing a respirator is the secret to avoiding respiratory hazards associated with the application of a pesticide. Respirators protect users against the inhalation of airborne chemicals or dust that can cause temporary or irreversible damage, including death, to their health.
Although protecting your health is the primary reason for wearing a respirator, a secondary reason is that certain pesticide product labels require that a respirator should be worn. It is recommended that you get a medical examination before using a respirator. For the body, breathing through a respirator is extra work. Respirators can be unsafe for individuals with complications with the heart and lungs. Some individuals are claustrophobic or actually feel that it is difficult to wear a respirator.
How do respirators work?
The primary function of respirators is to filter the air we breathe and prevent all types of hazardous elements that are present in the air from entering our respiratory tract. Respirators are fitted with several layers of filtering materials to capture all particulate and gas-based pollutants to perform efficiently. Filters are made in a way that an electrostatic charge is attached to them that allows the appliance to filter out particles without harmfully affecting the breathing resistance that will be experienced by the wearer.
The unit is fitted with a battery-powered canister in the supplied air respirators that filters the ambient air into the filter, providing the wearer with clean and safe air via a hose that is attached to the mask.
What's the difference between respirator types?
Generally, there are two types of respirators and these are
- Air-purifying respirators (Half face or full-face respirators)- These are used with filters that purify the air and provide fresh air to breathe.
- Atmosphere-supplying respirator- These respirators are used to provide clean air from a storage tank worn by the user.
What you should be paying attention to when it comes to cartridges is the rating and letters next to the product description. These are categories and are assigned and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The letters 'N', 'R' or 'P' signifies how oil-resistant the respirator is. This is critical because the efficacy of your device can be decreased by oil.
The following are the assigned classes:
- N95:Filters at least 95% of airborne particles, no resistance to oil.
- Surgical N95:Filters at least 95% of airborne particles, no resistance to oil, but is also cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a surgical mask.
- N99: Filters at least 99% of airborne particles, no resistance to oil.
- N100: Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles, no resistance to oil.
- R95: Filters at least 95% of airborne particles, has a somewhat resistance to oil.
- P95: Filters at least 95% of airborne particles, strongly resistant to oil.
- P99: Filters at least 99% of airborne particles, strongly resistant to oil.
- P100: Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles, strongly resistant to oil.
- AG: Can filter acidic gas.
- OS: Can filter organic vapor.
When would you use a respirator?
The quality of the air varies from place to place, with the number of potential pollutants directly affected by the circumstances. Specific complex tasks can also significantly disrupt the quality of the surrounding air.
Below we have mentioned activities and circumstances that when you should wear a respirator.
For pesticides use
Given the harsh chemical components present in pesticide solutions, it is imperative to wear a respirator to thwart any level of respiratory hazard when performing tasks of pest control. In fact, most pesticides specifically require the use of a special respirator that is often highlighted on the label of the product. A chemical cartridge respirator is also used during the application and/or mixing of pesticide chemicals. These respirators are designed to prevent the wearer from breathing in toxic vapors and gases.
Particulate air filters are used to protect against airborne particulates, but not against chemical vapors or gases. While in certain pesticide cases, particulate air filters can be used, they should never be used while mixing or applying pesticide liquids because the mask may absorb splashed or spilled liquids or pesticide vapors and create an exposure hazard for the user. (BreathBuddy respirators are designed to protect the wearer from harmful chemical vapors or gases and other harmful pollutants that are released when handling certain pesticides).
NIOSH developed performance standards for particulate respirators in July 1995. The requirements include three filter types: N (not resistant to oil), R (resistant to oil for up to 8 hours), and P (resistant to oil for up to 8 hours) (oil proof). The minimum efficiencies of 95, 99, and 99.97 percent demonstrate how powerful the filter capacity of the respirator is against particles of at least 0.3 micrometers.
Use and Care of Respirators
Respirators are necessary to wear when you need protection while working with pesticides. Before using any respirator it is mandatory to read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the equipment, on the cartridge, or canister and all supplemental information about its proper use and care. Always use the filter that is made to protect you against the pesticide you intend to use.
All respirators must be inspected for wear and deterioration of their components before and after each use. Pay attention to all the parts of the device and especially to the rubber or plastic that can easily deteriorate. You should always keep the facepiece, valves, connecting tubes or hoses, fittings, and filters in good condition.
It is important to properly place and seal all valves, filters, and chemical filters (cartridges or canisters). To ensure a secure yet comfortable seal, fit the respirator on your face. A beard or large sideburns may prevent a good face seal.