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Respirators and masks 101, Basic info on cartridges and the types

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  • Respirators and masks 101, Basic info on cartridges and the types

    I have posted this on a number of forums over the last couple of years. Since there have been a couple of threads on USING them and fume extractors. As I don't know anybody that willingly wants to join the ranks of the bottle or oxy concentrators lugging people at Wally World, the bingo hall or casino's! The most important thing you as a welder hobbyist or full time rod burner is. The crap that we breathe into our lungs is cumulative or if you will additive once it is in your lungs little of it ever comes out!

    I can tell you I know first hand about good masks. I shoveled coal and ash and cleaned boilers for the better part of 35 years. The coal and soot covered masks are what I saved for show and tell after I retired. I was one of the few that wore a mask when cleaning and doing the dirty work. As I saw first hand what coal dust/black lung did to my grandfather, from the mines. And he didn't work in them long.
    I will get off my soap box now

    Ok first thing is some general info, as with a lot of things in life and work or trades. The misuse or the wrong use of terms.
    The letter designators at the start of the cartridge or respirator descriptor:

    N =Not to be used with oil.

    R =R means "resistant to oils." Can be used for eight hours with chemicals and pesticides that contain oil.

    P =P means "oil proof." Can be used with oil and non-oil hazards; may be able to use longer than eight hours.

    HE =High Efficiency, the filter used on a PAPR (Can be used with oils.) Check with manufacturer's instructions for time restrictions; or change when you notice a decrease in airflow.

    Chemical Cartridge Color Coding
    All manufacturers use the same color coding for gas/vapor protection

    Color Type
    White ☼ Acid Gas
    Black ☼ Organic Vapors
    Green ☼ Ammonia Gas
    Yellow ☼ Acid Gas & Organic Vapor
    Olive ☼ Mulit-gas (protects against numerous gases and vapors)
    Magenta ☼ Particulate Filter Cartridge (HEPA) (Also called P100)
    (A HEPA is a particulate filter; all others are used for gases and/or vapors.)

    Particulate respirators, filters and pre-filters - trap solid and liquid particles such as dusts, mists and fumes. They can be found in the form of a disposable respirator, or in the form of a "pre-filter", which can be used in conjunction with a chemical cartridge. The filters should be changed according to the manufacturer's instructions or when you experience excessive breathing resistance.

    Chemical cartridges - (Gas and/or Vapor-removing Cartridge-type Respirators) are filled with specially treated activated carbon which will adsorb certain gases and/or vapors. You should change the cartridges when you taste or smell a substance, or your eyes, throat or respiratory system become irritated. It's best to schedule a cartridge "change-out" before you notice that you are being exposed to the contaminant.

    Not for use in atmospheres, Immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH is a term that you will see over and over when looking at APR's (Air Purifying Respirators) What most people call masks.

    In IDLH atmospheres the concentrations are high enough or the substance is dangerous enough that exposure could kill you. If you must enter, you will need a respirator that supplies breathable air, such as a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) unit, which consists of a portable tank of air; or a supplied air system (with an emergency escape bottle), which supplies air via a pump or an air compressor.

    Disposable APR's they can be reused for their suggested life span, generally a shift in a workplace.

    Then they go from use once and toss, thru the (PAPR) Powered Air Purifying Respirators thru the SCBA, and supplied air/airline

    The numbers after the letter designator 95/99/100 are at least 95%/99%/99.97% filter efficient for the particulates

    3M N95 Particulate rated for welding fumes
    Good For Welding on stainless steel, aluminum,galvanized steel and ozone and nuisance organic vapors may be present.

    This is the one that is sold by most LWS or online it is also The one that I use as a hobbyist they last a long time, As it is recommended that after each use you store them in a zip lock plastic bag.
    They aren't cheap at the LWS they are about $7.00 each
    When you get them on line make sure that they are rated for welding fumes as there are N95 that are only particulate/dust rated. they are cheaper. I use a cheaper one for wire brushing, grinding etc.

    Comfort Masks, for dusts and minor irritants

    3 versions of dust masks

    A dual cartridge respirator,Norton brand now called North

    Cartridges/pre-filter caps and inserts

    A N95(black) N100(magenta)

    Another dual cartridge, SAS brand Survivor air systems now part of Sperian Co

    A single cartridge,Glendale brand

    cartridge, pre-filter and cover

    Just a side note why pre-filters are important, with out them the cartridges plug up quickly Even with them some of the coal dust and soot would get thru.

    Finally a fire department SCBA full mask, from an auction of surplus equipment. It is a Survivor air system now Sperian When I get some free time, I am planning on contacting Sperian to find out if the have an adapter rig to fit this mask and low pressure air supply source.

    I would say that what systems you need or care to have will depend on the amount of usage and type of work you are using.

    You can use a better grade of respirator for dusts, but never use a lesser grade for fumes,vapors or the mineral dusts. The masks sold as comfort or dust masks at the big box stores or wood working stores are just that nuisance dust masks and should only be used for that!
    Been there, probably broke it, doing that!
    I am not a lawyer, and never played one on TV!
    All the usual and standard disclaimers apply. Do not try this at home, use only as directed, No warranties express or implied, for the intended use or the suggested uses, Wear safety glasses, closed course, professionals only

  • #2
    Thanks for posting this information. Very helpful.
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.


    • #3
      Question on 3M CE 0086 half mask

      Any comment on the suitability of 3M half face mask CE 0086 EN140 with P100 2297 (black) filters for welding/grinding steel/aluminum or P100 60921 (magenta) cartridges labeled organic vapors for acetone/xylene?
      Thanks for posting, too many never think about wearing even an N95.


      • #4
        Not mentioned above, but it is my understanding that if you have a beard, you need to shave it off.

        Most of the masks shown are worthless if you have a beard because they rely on sealing to your face.
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        • #5
          Excellent treatise, Glen. Thanks.

          I think it should be stickified.

          There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

          Location: SF Bay Area