What is a Disposable Respirator?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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A disposable respirator is a device that many workers use in order to safely breathe while working with hazardous materials. It works as a filtration device, allowing air particles to pass through the dust mask while filtering out harmful pollutants. Though a disposable respirator resembles a generic dust mask, it is considered a higher grade device with government regulated specifications.

Most disposable respirators are adjustable, available as a single size meant to fit all wearers. Each device consists of a soft, foam mask and a head strap. Many respirators also feature several additional straps to ensure proper fit and maximum coverage. A nose clip, which often indicates the grade and strength of a particular mask, is also often included. Because of their extra features, disposable respirators often cost more than typical face masks.

In order to be considered a disposable respirator, a respirator mask must cover both the nose and the mouth. It should fit the wearer's face snugly, preventing most airborne particles other than oxygen through the mask. Though these devices can help keep people safe from inhaling many pollutants, some particles may still be inhaled while wearing the mask; a disposable respirator cannot fully prevent them from being inhaled.


An industrial respirator can effectively filter particles such as ash, smoke, and soot, preventing the worker from inhaling these hazardous materials. Respirators can also protect people from some liquids that exhibit vapors, such as paint spray. Enamel and lacquer vapors can also be filtered out of these protective masks. Low levels of mildew and mold may also be removed from the oxygen that passes through a disposable respirator.

Some disposable respirators offer climate control functionality. This allows them to maintain a comfortable temperature for the wearer. Such a convenience can prevent the worker from becoming overheated while wearing the mask, which can happen while wearing a typical dust mask. Since many people who wear a disposable respirator are also required to wear safety glasses as well, most models come equipped with an exhale valve to prevent glasses from becoming foggy with breath.

There are some circumstances in which a disposable respirator may not work properly. People with facial hair or large piercings may not receive the full extent of protection that a mask offers. People with breathing conditions such as asthma or emphysema may not be able to breathe well while wearing these types of respirators. People with such medical conditions should consult with a physician prior to wearing one of these masks.



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