What is a Particulate Respirator?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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A particulate respirator is a safety device used to filter particulates from the air before people inhale, reducing the risk of irritation to the bronchial passages, nose, and lungs. This type of respirator may be recommended or required in settings where people will be exposed to large volumes of particulates such as sawdust, paint particles, or dust stirred up during mining activities. Along with other safety equipment, particulate respirators are produced by a variety of manufacturers.

Inhaling particulate materials can be very dangerous. Small particles can irritate the mucus membranes found in the mouth, nose, airways, and lungs. This can lead to inflammation and even infection, especially in the case of particles like fiberglass that may become embedded. Over time, chronic exposure to such materials can result in respiratory problems, including long term issues like a predisposition to lung cancers. Safety equipment to limit risks is strongly advised for people who are exposed to particulates occupationally or through hobbies like woodworking or painting.


The most simple particulate respirator is simply a cover for the mouth and nose. The cover is made from a thick, fibrous material designed to trap particulates as people inhale. This type of respirator can be uncomfortable for extended wear, and some people find that humidity builds up quickly inside as they exhale, making it hard to breathe. This particulate respirator design is also known as a dust mask. Other respirators consist of a mask worn over the face with an attached filter cartridge to remove impurities.

Every particulate respirator has a rating, indicating the kinds of particulates it can filter out. The rating should identify the largest size it allows through and provide an estimate of the total percentage of particulates it can filter out, allowing people to select the style that best suits their needs. In some settings, a specific style or rating may be recommended by safety officers.

In an environment where people are supposed to wear respirators to protect themselves, it is important to make sure people wear them at all times. In a workplace, they must be provided by law, along with other safety equipment. A safety officer may periodically patrol to check for compliance with safety rules, and people can also remind each other to wear protection. At home or in private workshops, while there may be no legal requirement, using safety equipment like a particulate respirator can reduce risks and prevent future quality of life problems.



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