Many of us work in an environment where there is presence or production of dust and fumes which may harm our lungs if we are continuously exposed to it in the long run. In fact, in metro cities nowadays the pollution levels are so high that you have no other option but to use a dust mask to protect your health. Buying a dust mask is not that complicated but still there are some basic guidelines you need to follow in order to achieve an adequate protection hence let us discuss that step by step below;
Before you even go to a store to buy the mask, you need to first analyze the level of contamination against which you wish to use the mask. As different masks come with different ratings hence using a dust mask with inadequate protection is of no use. Still, if you are confused with the level of contamination and unsure about it, go for the one with a higher level of protection.
Understanding how the dust mask is rated actually denotes its efficiency, hence you need to understand how dust masks are rated. Usually, these masks are rated using the three letters- N, R, and P as per the effectiveness of the mask in removing the dust, oil, and airborne vapors.
The letter is followed by a percentage that indicated the percentage of particles the mask is capable of filtering out.
Hence when the dust mask is rated as N95 it means the mask filters out 95% of airborne particles but it does not provide protection against airborne oil-based particles which are found in solvents and finishes.
The last criteria to select the right gas mask is by testing its fit. As everyone has a different facial structure, the mask needs to fit you properly to avoid any leakages around the deal letting the dust in.
This is only possible to know after you do a proper face-fit test to see if the gas mask fits you right
Now let us classify the various types of dust mask available in the market;
These are cheap masks available that claim to be dust mask but do not have any standard rating hence, in reality, they are not efficient and you may be better off without using them all together as these masks cannot protect you from airborne particles and they can only keep insects away.
These masks can be used for a short duration after which you will have to replace them with new ones. It can be used to protect yourself against dust particles in the atmosphere due to pollution or from the work environment such as sanding wood or demolition work. Make sure the mask is at least of the rating N95.
This mask is almost the same as the standard disposable mask but if you need to wear the mask for a number of hours, then buying one with an exhalation valve will be much more comfortable to wear as the valve will make breathing lot easier. the protection level will be the same, but the extra comfort comes with an extra cost and it is worth it if you need to wear it the entire day.
The reusable gas mask is much more comfortable than a disposable mask and mostly made of fabric. If you need to use the mask a lot, then you can buy the reusable version which makes it more nominal with added comfort and the rating is mostly N99.
These masks are the most effective and versatile as the filters are replaceable and available for different hazards such as HEPA for dust or chemical filter for volatile organic compounds, If you work with solvents then you will need to get a dust mask in which the activated charcoal cartridge filter can be replaced and the mask rating should be P100.
The Bottom Line:
You need to choose a mask based on the contamination present in the environment against which you need protection. If you need to protect yourself from a dusty environment, then go for an N95 mask, if you are looking for a mask that can be used to work with paints and adhesives then use a reusable cartridge mask with activated charcoal as a filter. But, remember if you have a beard, no mask will be as effective hence you will need to get rid of that beard for the mask to work as promised.
When choosing a dust mask, it is important to remember that the filters can only filter out dust, fume, and mist. You should not consider using these dust masks in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere. Also, these masks cannot protect you from harmful gases and vapors hence do not mistake them to be something they are not as the name itself suggests, they simply are dust masks.