Not all respirators are the same. When you read work instructions, MSDS sheets, or product container labels, don't gloss over the word "respirator." Determine what kind of respirator the situation demands.

Select a respirator not on the basis of comfort, but on the basis of what it's in the air that you need to keep out of your lungs:

  • A paper respirator blocks dust particles larger than a certain size. It doesn't protect you from fumes or vapors.
  • Canister-type respirators typically seal against your face. They filter out small particles and absorb toxic gases (typically into a charcoal filter), but only for a limited time. Read the directions, and don't exceed the usage time. If in doubt as to how much capacity a cartridge has left, replace it.
  • Air-supplied respirators provide clean air through a hose connected to a clean source or from a tank you wear. As with the cartridge, a tank means you must monitor your usage time.