By Allen Brown

Gas masks are designed to keep us safe in dangerous, life-threatening situations and are commonly used in many industries. Whether you are looking to purchase a gas mask for personal or professional use, you need to be able to identify the most suitable gas mask for the situation. This can be tricky because they come in a variety of respirators, filters, and systems. Choosing the right gas mask depends on the use, which is why a lot of research is required before making a purchase.  

We have put together a guide that will help you grasp a better understanding of which gas mask to choose. 

Why Do You Need a Gas Mask?

Before you identify the right gas mask for you, it’s helpful to understand why you need it in the first place. Professionals who work in the military, law enforcement personnel, and industrial workers have a good understanding of which gas masks they need, and why they need them. On the other hand, individuals who don’t have such experience and want to purchase one for personal reasons, need to pinpoint exactly what they need it for and what they want to protect themselves from. Are you getting some work done using chemicals or facing possible nuclear, biological, or radiological threats? Or are you just hoping to get better protection against the ongoing pandemic? Identifying the purpose is quite important, as the former would require a more advanced gas mask than the P100 level filtration one needed for protection from the Coronavirus. In such threats, everyone should be ready with personal protective equipment that is protective against toxic chemicals, gases, a variety of microorganisms, radioactive particles and fallouts. 

Types of Respirators

Respirators are specifically designed to ensure that an individual receives clean, safe, and breathable air There are mainly two types of respirators: Air-purifying respirators, or APR, and Atmosphere-supplying respirators. 

Air-purifying respirators basically rely on filters to clear out contaminants from the air. Particulate respirators are the cheapest types of respirators and are shaped like regular surgical face masks. They are designed to protect individuals from only airborne particles and infectious agents. Those gas masks are usually a P-100 rating, and can’t protect individuals against gases, chemicals, or vapors. Escape respirators are for short-term use only and will last anywhere between 15 to 60 minutes. They are specifically designed to help you escape dangerous areas. CBRN-rated gas masks, or a military grade gas mask, usually use a full-face respirator. Full-face gas mask respirators use filter cartridges to purify the air from chemical gases, vapors, and particulates. They are gas masks that cover the whole face and contain a filter that filters the air each time the individual inhales. Powered air-purifying respirators are usually the easiest to breathe in as they are shaped like regular masks and use fans to blow air through filters. 

Atmosphere-supplying respirators operate by providing clean air from alternate sources. Air-supplied respirators are designed for workers who need to spend extended periods of time in dangerous areas. They use an airline hose to provide them with clean air from an alternative source. Self-contained breathing apparatus are respirators that contain their own supply of clean air, eliminating the need for filters. It functions similarly to a scuba tank and is worn by individuals who are surrounded by potentially toxic gas or unknown gas concentrations.  

You are free to choose between loose- and tight-fitting respirators. Tight-fitting respirators contain a mask with a rubber barrier, creating a seal with both the neck and face. Loose-fitting respirators, however, don’t consist of tight seals and are hoods that are worn over the head and neck. 

Types of Filters

How effective a mask is, specifically depends on the effectiveness of its filter. There are several types and levels of filters; the level of protection you are looking for will determine the type of filter that you choose. Each type of mask serves different applications. Each mask is usually classified into 3 classes, each targeting a specific level of gas concentration. Every mask type comes with a specific standard that specifies the requirements for filters to offer protection in different situations. Lookup a basic filter color-coding scheme that will help you understand which filter works best for your needs. 

Choosing the right gas mask can be very confusing. This is because unlike regular surgical face masks, there is so much to consider and look into when it comes to gas masks. Gas masks are designed to serve a variety of purposes and provide protection in multiple situations. So make sure you are clear on the purpose you want your gas mask to perform. 

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