A paint respirator is designed to protect the lungs from exposure to solid particles, spray mist, vapors, gasses, and fumes.
There are several different grades of respirators ranging from inexpensive, simple dust masks to costly, powered air purifying respirators. Selecting the proper respirator should be based upon the scope of your painting project and the type and concentration of contaminants you will be exposed to.
Ensuring a proper fit for a paint respirator is very important. A good seal at the face will prevent air leakage and allow the filter to work. When you purchase a respirator, select the size that fits the best.
There are three commonly used types of paint respirators.
Maintenance Free Particulate Respirators
Disposable dust masks are an economical form of respiratory protection. They are typically used to protect from exposure to solid particles such as those from sanding, grinding, and sweeping. They can also be used to protect from non-harmful sprays that contain liquid or non-oil based particles. These respirators do not protect from fumes and vapors found in spray painting, oil aerosols, or solid particles containing lead or asbestos.
Homes built before the mid 1970s have a high probability of having been painted with lead base paints. Sanding these old coatings will create dust particles containing lead. Standard dust masks do not offer adequate protection against small lead based particles. A half face-piece respirator equipped with the proper HEPA respirator filter for lead should be used. For example, the 3M company makes the 6000 series half mask along with 2091 P100 HEPA respirator filter for this application.
Dust masks are available in different grades. Some are even equipped with a one-way valve to make exhalation easier. They also come in various sizes to achieve a proper fit with small, medium, and large faces.
If a dust mask becomes dirty or clogged making it difficult to breathe, or it is damaged, it needs to be replaced.
Half Face-Piece Respirators
This type of respirator is more expensive than the disposable respirators. These respirators are reusable and equipped with replaceable cartridges and filters.
The Half Face-Piece respirators offer protection against a variety of vapors, fumes, gasses, and oil aerosols. With the proper filters, they can also protect against solid particles including particulates containing lead and asbestos. These respirators are ideal for most painting applications including spray painting and paint removal. Before using any paint respirator, read the product information carefully.
They are available in small, medium, and large sizes to accommodate different faces. A snug fit and a good seal is very important in order that the respirator functions properly.
Be sure to choose a half face-piece respirator with the proper cartridges and filters based upon the scope of your painting project and the type and concentration of contaminants you will be exposed to.
The cartridges should not be used after the expiration date on their packaging. The life of the cartridges depends on the use, types and concentration of contaminants, and environmental conditions. The cartridges should be kept in a sealed storage bag when not in use. This will lengthen their service life. If a taste or smell of the contaminants is detectable, the cartridges should be replaced. The filters need to be replaced if they become damaged, clogged, or if breathing becomes difficult.
Full Face-Piece Respirators
A full face-piece respirator is similar to a half face-piece respirator but offers some additional protection for the face. The full face piece helps to prevent dust and paint overspray from getting into eyes. This is especially useful when spraying oil base enamel.
Two of the leading manufacturers of paint respirators are 3M Company and AO Safety. They both offer a large selection to choose from.