Introduction to Respiratory Protection

We don’t often give much thought to the air we breathe. Air quality is usually out of our control so worrying about it would cause unnecessary stress. For the most part, that isn’t a big deal, but if you’re on the job and the processes involved are kicking material into the air, it’s worth the effort to protect your respiratory system. Here at Enviro we have a range of respiratory protection products from one-use face masks to full-service airtight respiration suits. What kind of job you’re doing will determine what kind of protection you need. Let’s dive in.

 

The most basic type of respirator is the familiar dust mask. Everyone’s seen them before, those white paper domes strapped to the faces of construction workers like cardboard Darth Vader masks. Without them, your lungs could incur irreparable damage from the particulate in the air. It’s not quite the equivalent of a lava bath on Mustafar, but lung damage severely affects quality of life and even lead to death. A particularly nasty substance, crystalline silica, is a byproduct of many crushing and grinding processes. It sprays into the air as a cloud of microscopic needles that, when inhaled, will settle in your lungs and create a horrifying infection. It can take up to a decade for symptoms to show, but when they do it usually means the end of a career and a grim prognosis of a drastically shortened life. You don’t want that to happen, and a proper respirator can prevent it.

 

Dust masks have letter and number ratings: N, R, P, 95, 99, and 100. N means that the respirator is not oil resistant and shouldn’t be used in oily situations. R means it is resistant to oil and suitable for light oil applications, while P indicates the mask is fully oil-proof and suitable for jobs with a heavy oil presence. The numbers reflect the percentage of particles (0.3 microns or larger) that the respirator filters. For example, a P95 mask is oil-proof and filters out 95% of particles. Simple enough. To be precise, 100-rated masks filter out 99.97% of particles, but the system rounds it up for obvious reasons. N95s tend to be the most popular because they are easier to breathe in.

 

If your environment has more airborne dangers than a disposable filter can handle, we have you covered. Our half- and full-face respirators may be more Vader-esque than the simple dust masks, but they are also much more effective. They typically feature a mask that covers the mouth and two filter slots on either side that accomodate disposable filters, which can come as distinctive cartridges or soft pads. You can buy composite parts as well as conveniently packaged assembly kits at a discount. There are a number of specialized models for particular jobs (for example, the 3MM7193 is designed for asbestos) but they’re mostly multi-purpose and fit for all kinds of work. Some of them cover only the mouth, while others come with a face shield that forms a seal around the whole face, providing eye protection as well.

 

Next time we’re going to look at some of the more advanced options in the respiratory department, like PAPRs and SCBAs and other great acronymically named products. Stay tuned!

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