What Is A Dust Mask? — A Safety Guide
When we talk about emergency preparation, there is so much to think about in your head. We have to protect ourselves and protect the people around us—first aid and survival gear come to mind. The first thing we would want to protect is our health and our well-being, which is why one of the most common items that come into our minds when we think of protection is a dust mask. Whether or not you are engaging in an activity that requires a dust mask or you have one handy because you have allergic rhinitis, it’s essential to be able to answer the basics as to what is a dust mask and when must we use a dust mask.
There are a lot of dust masks in the market today that protect us from the hazard of particles. This is why we are going to go through the differences to know what is a dust mask and which dust mask best suits your needs.
Dust Masks: When To Use and Types Available
It sounds simple—a mask for dust, a dust mask. We need dust masks to protect ourselves from respiratory problems. And there are activities we do that need an extra layer of protection from dust and other fine particles.
- Dusty activities - If you engage in activities that produce dust and other fine particles that could easily get inhaled, a dusk mask is needed. Some of these activities include sweeping, dusting or spray painting
- DIY projects - Engaging in do-it-yourself projects will require a dust mask. Do you enjoy fixing your place? It is best to protect yourself from the particles that will undoubtedly be released into the air while you are busy with your projects.
- Art - Engaging in the art will also require you to use a dust mask because you will be inhaling a lot of fumes from the paint you will be using and other art materials that could affect your lungs
- Allergies – If you suffer from allergies or are sensitive to dust and other particles, you need a dust mask close and handy.
- Emergency – whether it is brought about by weather conditions like a sand storm, a volcanic eruption, a form of the disease, or humanmade emergencies like chemical spills, the dust mask proves invaluable for these critical times.
Not all dust masks are the same. There is a reason why there are specific codes that come with a dust mask, and it refers to its level of protection. A dust mask, also known as a filtering facepiece, can be alternately used in terminology as a respirator and can also be called a particulate filter. It has particular uses compared to other respirators, but we will focus on the dust masks. We will go through the different types so we can understand when these types are needed.
Dust Masks have different corresponding ratings:
Some dust masks are disposable, while some have reusable filters. A dust mask can protect you from dust, particles, mists, and some fumes, but it can no longer protect you from vapors or gases.
Dust masks are rated accordingly:
- N – refers to non-oil resistant
- R – Resistant to oil
- P – Oil Proof
- 95 - Removes 95% of particles with 0.3 microns diameter
- 99 - Removes 99% of particles with 0.3-micron diameter
- 100 - Removes 99.97% of particles with 0.3-micron diameter or larger
What constitutes 0.3 microns?
Microns used to measure particle size, which means that a dust mask can filter out particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter. Let’s go through a few standard particle diameters so we know which a dust mask can filter ones:
- Auto and Car Emission (1 - 150)
- Bacteria ( 0.3 - 60)
- Cement Dust (3 - 100)
- Household dust (0.05 - 100)
- Human Sneeze (10 - 100)
- Insecticide Dusts (0.5 - 10)
- Liquid Droplets (0.5 - 5)
- Mist (70 - 350)
- Mold (3 - 12)
- Paint Pigments (0.1 - 5)
- Pollen (10 - 1000)
- Saw Dust (30 - 600)
- Spores from plants (3 - 100)
The figures above shows a few samples of particle microns above 0.3.
The N95 is the most common disposable dust mask, which according to its rating, filters 95% of non-oil based particles. The N95 should be alright to use in a household or doing basic DIY projects.
If you are engaged in activities involving paint, the R95, and higher can filter some oil-based particles.
Masks rated 100 are considered HE (high efficiency) filters. The P100 can filter oil-based and non-oil based particles and is the most highly effective dust mask for use.
Below is a table of suggestions for the type of dust mask to use:
- Paint (R95 or higher)
- Pesticides, Sprays ( R95 or higher)
- Pollen ( N95 or higher)
- Sanding ( N95 or higher)
- Welding ( N95 or higher)
- Allergens ( N95 or higher)
- Asbestos ( N100 or HE)
- Bacteria and Viruses (N95 or higher)
- Bleach (N95 or higher)
- Dust ( N95 or higher)
- Mold (N95 or higher)
Other Things To Consider In Choosing A Dust Mask
Now that you know the different ratings for a mask and the particles it may or may not be able to filter, you can now choose based on fit and comfort.
Fits right – a dust mask that has a proper fitting over your nose and under your chin. A cover that has an adjustable nosepiece can offer a better fit.
Exhalation valve – some masks have an exhalation valve to offer ease in breathing.
Comfortable foam – foam found in a mask’s face seals can make the cover feel more comfortable
Note: one strap masks may not be able to protect you from particles in smoke.
Protection is an essential part of preparation. Although there are planned activities that will require us to have dust masks handy, it wouldn’t hurt to have additional pieces that will protect us in case more critical circumstances occur. Being prepared for an emergency starts with valuing your health and welfare, and you can start by knowing the specifics of what is a dust mask and the types that can best protect us.
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