Respiratory protection comes in a range of products that have varying degree of dust and/or fume protection. So let’s take a deeper look!
In Australia we use the P# where the # is either a 1, 2 or 3. The higher the number, the greater the level of protection offered to the wearer. So what protection do you get based on the numbers:-
P1 = 80% protection and therefore you could still be breathing in up to 20% of the dust particles in the air. Not recommended for any hazardous dust such as Asbestos or fiberglass etc. or for protection against Legionella bacteria in potting mix or from the mist of inadequately maintained cooling towers.
P2 = 94% protection which gives a much higher level of protection than a P1 as the maximum exposure is 6% of the dust in the air. These masks are suitable for Asbestos removal tasks and for potential exposure to the Legionella bacteria. As an aside the European classification of N95 or the Chinese KN95 refers to a 95% level of protection, so very similar to the Australian P2 rating.
P3 = 99.4% protection. Obviously this is the highest level of protection but can only be achieved via really good fitting half face respirators or best is a full face respirator fitted with P3 cartridges. It is not possible to get P3 protection from “disposable dust masks”.
If the correct fume absorbing cartridge is attached to a half or full face respirator or carbon filtering is applied to a disposable respirator then they are capable of absorbing and thus protecting the wearer from exposure to a particular chemical fume.
It is important to be aware that carbon impregnated disposable dust masks are only suitable for nuisance levels of organic vapours or mechanically or thermally generated particles.
For higher levels or more continuous fume exposure a person needs to wear a half face or full face respirator fitted with either an “A1” or an “ABEK” cartridge. An “A1” cartridge is suitable for gas/vapour fumes. “ABEK” cartridges are suitable for chemicals including organic vapour, acid gas and Sulphur or Ammonia fumes. Using the wrong cartridge can lead to an inadequate level of fume protection. It is also important to recognise that once a cartridge is “fully loaded” with fumes it cannot absorb anymore and therefore the user will be exposed to the fumes. How long it takes to fully load a cartridge depends on the level of fume concentration in the air.
Correct fitting of either disposable or half face respirators is important. Without doing so the wearer will have bypass and thus will not be fully protected. Always follow the fitting instruction on the product packaging. Furthermore, men must be clean shaven in order to achieve correct fitting.
All respiratory protection gear sold in Australia must meet Australian Standard AS/NZS 1716 or European equivalent EN149:2001+A1:2009 to be used in a workplace. Beware of products listed on eBay or Amazon that claim to be workplace suitable dust masks or respirators. Unless they can show an Australian Standard marking on the packaging and better still one that has been licenced by an independent certifying agency, then DO NOT buy them.
SUPA Safety Shop
SUPA Safety Shop only sells compliant dust masks or respirators. We can also provide advice as to the best type and level of respiratory protection for your workplace or home maintenance or cleaning task.