This article is about paper dust masks. For respirators worn over the nose and mouth, see N95 respirator.
A half-face dust mask
A dust mask is a flexible paper pad held over the nose and mouth by elastic or rubber straps for personal comfort against non-toxic nuisance dusts. They are not intended to provide protection from toxic airborne hazards. The European FFP1 mask, the lowest-grade mechanical filter respirator available in the jurisdiction, is also used as a dust mask.
Dust masks are used in environments with dusts encountered during construction or cleaning activities, such as dusts from drywall, brick, wood, fiberglass, silica (from ceramic or glass production), or sweeping. A dust mask can also be worn in environments with allergens such as tree and grass pollen. A dust mask is also used to prevent the wearer from inhaling dust or sand in
A dust mask is worn in the same fashion as a filtering face piece respirator or surgical mask, but it is dangerous to confuse them because they each protect against specific airborne dangers. Using the wrong mask for a job can present a significant and possibly deadly danger as many dust masks with widely varied levels of protection may look similar, and even masks that do not protect against dust at all. Misfitting masks are also a danger as they allow a material to bypass the mask entirely. A correct fit may not be as critical in masks that are intended to protect against splattering liquids or mists. Dust masks do not protect against chemicals such as vapors and mists. For this reason, it is dangerous to confuse dust masks with respirators used as paint masks.
Dust masks are a cheaper, lighter, and possibly more comfortable alternative to respirators, but do not provide certified respiratory protection, and may be more susceptible to misuse or poor fit. Dust masks and respirators usually do not contact the mouth, and therefore interfere less with speech than cloth masks that do contact the mouth.
Some dust masks include improvements such as having two straps behind the head (one upper and one lower), having a strip of aluminum on the outside across the bridge of the nose that can be bent for a custom fit, and having a strip of foam rubber on the inside across the bridge of the nose to ensure a better seal even if the aluminum on the outside does not fit.
Any mask that consistently covers the nose and mouth will reduce the transmission of contagious respiratory diseases. Snugly fitting dust masks generally provide more protection than loose cloth masks, but less protection than respirators
Dust masks are not approved disposable filtering face pieces. They can be worn for comfort against non-toxic nuisance dusts during activities like mowing, gardening, sweeping and dusting. These masks are not respirators and do not offer protection against hazardous dusts, gases or vapors.
Dust masks can be mistaken by approved N-95 respirators. How can you tell the difference? Look for a label printed on the box and/or mask. Also the use of the word “respirator”on the box may indicate it it’s a respirator.
Please note that if you are using N-95 respirators for nuisance dust we recommend you discontinue their use and switch to dust masks.
Respirator wearers must to comply with all the requirements of the Respiratory Protection Program which include: Medical certification, training and annual fit testing.
If you have questions or think you need a respirator please give the Occupational Safety Team a call at 355-0153. We can perform a respiratory hazard assessment of work tasks to determine whether respiratory protection is needed.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.
Different Types of Dust Mask
Dust Masks are designed to protect the wearer against inhaling airborne particulates. Airborne particulates are solids or liquids suspended in breathable air and can be classified as dusts, mists or fume. Inhaling airborne particulates may have an inverse effect on health and, depending on the particulate inhaled, this effect may be irreversible. There are three main different type of dust masks which are governed by the European standard EN149:2001+A1:2009 (Respiratory protective devices. Filtering half masks to protect against particles. Requirements, testing, marking) – this covers dusts masks and their three ratings; FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. Each different dust mask rating is a step up giving greater protection. FFP1 Dust Masks FFP1 dust masks give the minimum level of protection against non-toxic particulates however this may be perfectly acceptable depending on the airborne hazard. As they are composed of the least amount of filter material they also provide the least breathing resistance and quite often an exhalation valve is not required. FFP1 dust mask protection examples: brick dust, cellulose, cement, coal dust, gypsum, limestone, Plaster of Paris, pollen, sugar. FFP2 Dust Masks <FFP2 dust masks offer a moderate level of protection against hazardous mists and particulates and fume. Exhalation valves are more common in this rating of mask as there is greater breathing resistance. Some FFP2 dust masks have an activated charcoal layer to protect against ozone and these are often called welding dust masks. FFP2 dust mask protection examples: brake dust, cotton dust, granite dust, hay, lead dust and fume, softwood dust. FFP3 Dust Masks FFP3 dust masks provide the highest level of protection that a disposable mask can offer. A well fitting FFP3 mask will protect against fine toxic particulates including asbestos, bacteria, viruses and radioactive particles. Due to the thickness of the filter material an exhalation valve is almost always fitted. FFP3 dust mask protection examples: viruses, bacteria, radioactive dusts, asbestos.
Nuisance Dust Masks Comfort or Nuisance dust masks have no official rating and should not be considered as full respiratory protective equipment. We hope the above guide to the different type of dust masks helps you to make the right choice when choosing your dust mask