Breathe more easily with the help of masks and respirators
Painting your home may take a little bit of time and effort, but it shouldn’t
leave you feeling ill. Utilizing a mask or respirator is a good way to keep
your head and lungs clear while you sand and paint. These useful safety
devices can protect you from harmful fumes, dust, pollen and other airborne
particles. If you know for sure that your next project involves any harmful
gases, vapors or particles, knowing what safety equipment is available to you
is vital. As you prepare for your project, keep the following questions in
mind and make sure you protect yourself from harm:
Masks, Respirators, Cartridges and Usage
The key to ensuring proper respiratory health when working with harmful substances is using the right type of protection. No respiratory apparatus protects against all dangerous and toxic chemicals. Before you begin any sort of painting project, find out what types of chemicals, fumes, gases and vapors you may encounter. If you have to do any sanding, you’ll need protection from dust, and if you’re working outside and are prone to allergies, having some pollen protection may make you more comfortable. Check on your respiratory equipment periodically to ensure that it is in proper working order. Also, look for features that enhance comfort and convenience.
Masks and Respirators: It’s easy to assume that because you have something covering your nose and mouth, you’re safe from harmful substances, especially if you can’t smell anything out of the ordinary. This is not always the case, however, as many microscopic and scent-free particles can prove harmful. While many people use different definitions, masks and respirators are generally differentiated by their ability to provide true respiratory protection. Masks guard against nuisance-level, nontoxic household dusts and pollen, making them ideal for use when cleaning up or working in the yard during hay fever season. Respirators, on the other hand, offer protection against chemicals, vapors and other harmful particles. They are available in a number of different configurations, from simple devices that cover your nose and mouth to complex full-head units. Particulate, or filtration, respirators, such as latex paint and odor respirators and sanding and fiberglass respirators, protect against solid particles while gas and vapor respirators offer protection against less solid substances.
|Type||Description||Points to Consider|
|Combination Respirator||Protects against solid particles as well as gases and vapors.||
|Dust Mask||Protects against dust, pollen and other solid particles.||
|Gas and Vapor Respirator||Protects against harmful gases and vapors.||
|Latex Paint and Odor Mask||Particulate respirator that protects against nuisance-level paint odors, latex paint and pollen.||
|Sanding and Fiberglass Respirator||Particulate respirator that minimizes exposure to pollen and dust encountered during sanding particle board and drywall.||
Cartridges: Cartridges, or filters, are responsible for blocking harmful substances. If they are located within a metal shell, cartridges may be referred to as “canisters.” Many respirators feature a dual-cartridge system with one on each side of the mask. These units are also known as air-purifying respirators. Most cartridges are designed to filter out only one particular substance or chemical, which makes it imperative to know what you’ll be encountering before you begin work. OSHA has created a color-coding scheme manufacturers use to denote what a given cartridge protects against.
Usage, Effectiveness and Maintenance: One of the most important steps
to ensure proper protection from a mask or respirator is achieving a proper
fit. If a respirator is loose, harmful vapors will be able to get inside,
rendering it useless. Make sure the unit is covering both your mouth and nose
at all times. Respirators are often rated by APF, or assigned protection
APF determines what proportion of contaminants a respirator will filter out. If, for example, a respirator had an APF of 50, users could expect to inhale approximately 1/50th of the total contaminant present. Remember that respirators only protect you while you’re wearing them. They don’t eliminate the hazard around you, and they don’t produce oxygen.
Face Seal Design: A good respirator should balance comfort with effective filtration. The manner in which the mask seals to your face is a key factor in both elements. Respirators must provide a tight, effective seal to prevent harmful substances from getting in, but look for units that feature softer material and edges that are not located on uncomfortable pressure points.
Color Coding: Some manufacturers color code respirators by size, making it easy to tell at a glance which one is yours if more than one person in your house or workshop has the same kind.
Field of Vision: When purchasing a full-face respirator, make sure it has an adequate field of vision. Without one, you’ll find yourself turning your head constantly to survey your work space, slowing down progress.
Compatibility: If you plan to use your respirator for a number of different tasks, look for one that’s designed to accommodate goggles, hearing protection and other safety equipment you may need to use.
Comfort: Paint and sanding jobs can take a while to complete, so look for respirators and masks with easy-to-use adjustable straps that allow you to find the most comfortable fit. Respirators with M-shaped nose clips help reduce pressure on your nose to increase comfort as well.
If you choose a dual-cartridge respirator, make sure you have extra filters on hand so you can replace the old ones as soon as they wear out.