REMEMBER: All respirators require training to be properly used. Sometimes you can practice using your own respirator. Some escape respirators come in a package that must remain sealed until use, so you need to be trained using a special "practice" version. Training is extremely important in regard to the storage, maintenance, use, and discarding of the respirator. Various applications require different respirators. This information is provided by the supplier of the respirator (i.e. seller, distributor, or manufacturer).
If you do not use a respirator correctly, it is very likely that it will not protect you—and it may even hurt you.
The following information will help you understand what a respirator is, and how it should be used.
What a respirator is:
A respirator is a device to protect you from inhaling dangerous substances, such as chemicals and infectious particles. There are a number of different types of respirators, as described below:
Escape respirators are designed to be used only in an emergency, and only to escape from a dangerous area to a safe area. There are several escape respirators on the market. Many of them use a hood with a neck seal instead of a facepiece. They are typically designed for one-time use for a short period, typically 15 minutes to 1 hour. They may be available in a variety of sizes and will fit most adults. Individuals with small or very large neck sizes may not be able to use some escape hood designs-check the supplier product information before purchasing.
Particulate respirator The particulate respirator is the simplest, least expensive, and least protective of the respirator types available. These respirators only protect against particles. They do not protect against chemicals, gases, or vapors, and are intended only for low hazard levels. The commonly known "N-95" filtering facepiece respirator is one type of particulate respirator, often used in hospital to protect against infectious agents. Particulate respirators are "air-purifying respirators" because they clean particles out of the air as you breathe. Even if you can't see the particles, there may be too many in the air for this respirator to provide adequate protection.
Chemical Cartridge/Gas Mask respirator Gas masks are also known as "air-purifying respirators" because they filter or clean chemical gases and possibly particles out of the air as you breathe. This respirator includes a facepiece or mask, and a filter/cartridge (if the filter is in a metal shell it is called a "canister"). Straps secure the facepiece to the head. The cartridge may have a filter to remove particles (such as a biological weapon), charcoal (to remove certain chemicals), both, or other parts. When the user inhales, air is pulled through the filter.
Gas Masks are effective only if used with the correct cartridge or filter (these terms are often used interchangeably) for a particular biological or chemical substance. Selecting the proper filter can be a complicated process. There are cartridges available that protect against more than one hazard, but there is no "all-in-one" filter that protects against all substances. You need to know what hazards you will face in order to be certain you are choosing the right filters.
Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) Powered air-purifying respirators use a fan to blow air through the filter to the user. They are easier to breathe through and they need a fully charged battery to work properly. They use the same filters as gas masks, so you need to know what the hazard is, and how much of it is in the air.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is the respirator commonly used by firefighters. These use their own air tank to supply clean air, so you don't need to worry about filters. They also protect against higher concentrations of dangerous chemicals. However, they are very heavy (30 pounds or more), and require very special training to use and to maintain them. Also, the air tanks typically last an hour or less depending upon their rating and how hard you are breathing.
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