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All About Masks and Respirators

Consumer and industrial masks can protect you while you're working with solvents, pesticides, adhesives, and other commonly-used things that can irritate or even damage lungs, irritate eyes and nasal passages. Long-term exposure also increases risk of certain serious diseases such as cancer. Consumer and industrial masks are not meant for biological hazards, even though some filter particles below 1 - 5 microns (which is common for anthrax). They are available at do-it-yourself home centers and hardware stores, like Home Depot, or you may use our product showcase.

Bio-hazard protection requires the mask to have an airtight seal around your nose and mouth, and, sometimes, your eyes. Disposable masks might not seal adequately or filter finely enough. Realistically, half and full-face masks would have to be professionally fitted to ensure such a seal. Even then, one would have to decontaminate their home and themselves before removing the mask. One would also have to know about the nature and presence of the bio-hazard beforehand for so that an effective mask could be selected.

Purchase a mask to protect yourself against more common household hazards. Wear the correct type of mask when painting, staining, sanding and other home-improvement tasks that generate airborne particles and vapors.

See our article on masks types for advice on which mask to use for protection against common airborne hazards.

Select a mask that has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) specifically for the purpose. Look for the approval on the package.

Prior to removing a mask from your face, clear the area of dust and other contaminants or move into a clean area. Remove dust from your clothes to avoid breathing it in.

Throw away disposable masks outside, enclosing them in plastic. Clean non-disposable masks outside following the manufacturer's directions.

Don't opt for military-style gas masks. Unlike commonly-available consumer or industrial masks, they often do not provide clearly-written instructions or guidelines for application and use.

Resources and Further Reading:

Types of Masks and Respirators | dust-control.us (Home Page)

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