A respirator is a mask that helps keep harmful particles or gasses out of a person’s lungs. Respirators are commonly used in mining, manufacturing and emergency response to protect employees from workplace hazards. There are various types of respirators that are designed to work in different environments. Simple disposable respirators may only have a few components, including straps to hold the mask in place and some kind of filtration system that fits over a person’s mouth and nose. More complicated systems feature a mask that covers the entire head and a hose and separate oxygen tank to supply air to the user.
The most important element of any respirator is the filter that scrubs harmful contaminants from the air. Basic filtration systems may consist almost entirely of a thin filter that fits over the lower face and helps protect against dust, pollen and other allergens. While these filters can be effective for many home and medical tasks, users who need to protect themselves from toxic substances, such as paint fumes or mold, will usually need a respirator that features a filter cartridge. These replaceable cartridge systems allow a user to select a filter designed to protect from the vapors or particles to which he will be exposed. Filter cartridges can expire after a certain date, so it is important for consumers to use a fresh cartridge designed for use with the rest of their respirator parts.
In circumstances where the eyes may be damaged by caustic substances, users may wear a respirator along with a full face mask to protect themselves. These masks usually include goggles that seal around the eyes and a tighter and more robust system of straps to keep the mask in place. Some of these masks may include additional respirator parts called spectacle insert kits that allow users to wear their prescription eyeglasses inside the faceplate. Escape hoods designed for use in fires and chemical attacks feature a simplified version of this system, with a clear plastic shroud that slips down over the head and seals around the neck. A small filter on the hood will allow the user to breath for a few minutes while they escape the contaminated environment.
In some environments, air filtration is not enough to protect the user’s lungs from damage. In these situations, a self-contained breathing apparatus is used; it features additional respirator parts, including an air tank, hose and air regulator. The tank holds clean compressed air, which is supplied to the user through a hose connected to the respirator mask. The regulator maintains the air supply at a safe pressure so it does not damage the user’s lungs. These systems generally require more user training and maintenance to keep the various respirator parts in the proper working order.