Understanding how to choose a respirator or dust mask will go a long way toward protecting your lungs and health.
A dust mask is a disposable filtering facepiece that is not NIOSH-approved.
A lot of projects, work, jobs frequently involve exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins — such as paint fumes, solvents, dust, adhesives, pesticides, and caustic cleaning products.
Inhaling these particles can cause a range of health effects, from irritation of the lungs and throat to more serious conditions such as bronchitis, worsening of existing asthma, and heart failure. Exposure to high concentrations of particulates can cause persistent cough, and difficulty breathing.
Respirators and dust masks aren’t all the same — there are different kinds to choose from, as well as a rating system for efficiency.
Dust masks are particulate filters, the most common type of air-purifying device for home use. Particulate filters can be disposable or reusable with replaceable filters. They cover your nose and mouth and protect you from airborne particles — including dust, mists, liquids, and some fumes — but they don’t protect you from gases or vapors.
Particulate filters are rated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health according to what, and how much, they filter out. The rating has both a letter and number:
N = Not resistant to oils
R = Somewhat resistant to oils
P = Strongly resistant to oils
The number following the letter indicates the percentage of particles that the mask is capable of filtering out. Are rated 95, 97, or 100.
The most common rating for disposable dust masks is N95, which will filter 95% of airborne particles that are not oil-based. Covers most woodshop dust, allergens, and airborne diseases. Filters for painting are often rated R95, or higher to handle oil-based particles. Don’t buy a mask with a rating of less than N95 or one that shows no rating at all.
If you’re looking for a dust mask, consider some point:
Adjustable nosepiece offers a tighter fit.
Foam face seals will be more comfortable and a little more effective.
Masks with an exhalation valve will make breathing easier.
For highly toxic particles, choose a non-disposable mask with sealing gaskets.
Must change respirator when:
Notice any changes in smells or taste.
Throat, nose or, lungs become irritated.
If breathing becomes clogged and hard to breathe through.
Respirators become ineffective if they get wet.
Disposable respirators aren’t mean to be used more than once.
Discard the respirator if becomes dirty or damaged.