Dust mask & respirator facts

Written by leroy demarest
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Dust mask & respirator facts
Basic paper dust mask (ecologist in mask image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

Dust masks and respirators provide safety to the lungs and respiratory tract from small particles like saw dust to harmful vapours. These masks come in different grades depending on the air particles.

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Dust masks and respirators block particles through small filters and can also neutralise certain chemicals depending on the type of filter pack.


There are three basic styles of respirators: dust masks, canister masks and full face supplied air masks.

Dust Masks

Dust masks come in a few varieties but they all block dust and fine grain particles.

Cartridge Respirators

Cartridge respirators have reusable canisters that filter the air before you breathe and can be full-faced or half-faced. Cartridges are coloured differently to show what they filter; such as pink for particulates, green for ammonia and yellow for organic vapour and acid gas.

Full face cartridge respirator
Full face cartridge respirator (Man in gas mask image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com)


Self Contained Breathing Apparatus or SCBA is the highest level of protection and is used when pollutants in the air are unknown. Commonly seen on firefighters; they supply air via an air tank or air line.

Firefighter wearing SCBA
Firefighter wearing SCBA (emergency image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

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