Catch Your Breath
The most common type of respiratory protection are respirators; which cover the nose, mouth or face to guard workers against hazardous atmospheres. Respirators protect the user in two different ways, Air Purifying and Atmosphere Supplying.
These types of respirators have filters, cartridges, canisters or a combination of filters that pass ambient air through the air-purifying element before it reaches the user. There are three types of air-purifying respirators:
Particulate - Also referred to as disposable respirators, Air Purifying respirators capture particles in the air such as dusts, mists and fumes. They generally become more effective as particles accumulate on the filter. They do not protect against gases or vapors.
Gas and Vapor - These respirators use chemical cartridges or canisters when there exists the danger of hazardous gases and vapors in the air. They do not protect against airborne particles.
Combination - Used in atmospheres that contain both particulate, gas and vapor hazards.
The second category of respirators supply clean breathing air from another source. There are 3 types of atmosphere- supplying respirators:
Air-Supplied (Airline) - Airlines deliver clean, breathable air from an uncontaminated source. They provide clean air for long periods of time and are lightweight.
Combination - Combination respirators have an auxiliary self-contained air supply that can be used if the primary supply fails, and is generally small since it only needs to supply enough air for escape.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) - These consist of a wearable, clean air supply pack that does not restrict movement and provides air for up to four hours.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tests and certifies respirators for use by workers to protect against workplace hazards. Respirators certified by NIOSH will say "NIOSH Approved" and may have a certification number. However, NIOSH only certifies respirators against specific hazards. NIOSH-certified respirators are supplied with Approval Labels that identify the hazards that the respirator is approved to protect against. When buying a respirator, always check the Approval Label to be sure that it has been certified against the hazards you against which you are seeking to protect yourself.