Modern workplace environments often contain a variety of potentially harmful compounds or biological hazards that are dangerous when inhaled or ingested. Working within or even near one of these environments typically requires the use of different types of respirator masks. Depending on the particular types of hazards involved, workers may employ simple, disposable respirator masks or, in more extreme situations, enclosed systems with powered air supplies are necessary. Regardless of the level of protection, all respirators perform the basic task of filtering out compounds or organic materials, ranging from common dust to radioactive particulates.
Different Types of Chemical Filters for the Workplace
There are several types of chemical filters for protection against vapors, germs and different kinds of particulates. Chemical filters are typically required where there are hazardous fumes or particulates present, as opposed to standard disposable respirator masks that are used primarily for protection against dust and non-toxic particulates. Half-face and full-face respirator masks are two of the most common styles of chemical filter masks, employing one or two filters, which are replaceable and allow for extended and safe use. The 3m vapor cartridge and organic cartridge are two common examples of replacement options for these types of masks. There are also several types of disposable respirator masks on the market which also employ chemical filters, with many designed primarily to combat odors.
Full-face and half-face respirators are most often used in combination with other protection systems, such as head and eye protection, as a means of protecting against contact with foreign substances and the inhalation of those substances. For more extreme substances, which include radioactive and hazardous materials, a powered air purifying respirator is required, providing a completely enclosed breathing system.
How and When to Use Chemically Filtered Respirator Systems
Respirator masks, in any of their forms, are necessary safety tools in environments that produce particulates or vapors. Some examples of particulates are dust, wood shavings and metal shavings, whereas gases and fumes from heated materials are examples of common workplace vapors. Using the right mask and filter for each particular environment is critical and ensures worker safety, while increasing productivity at the same time.
Each filter component, such as those used with half-face and full-face systems, is clearly identified by the manufacturer for use in specific settings. The versatility of removable filters allows workers to adjust from specific organic materials to vapors or gases by employing one of several types of replacement filters. Additionally, workers can use a 3m vapor cartridge designed specifically to prevent inhalation of a combination of substances, including organic materials and organic vapors, as well as gases and even fumes from strong acids. This is a distinct advantage in situations where all of the hazards are not known or several types of hazards are present within a single environment.