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Respirator question

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Dan Stromberg, Jun 4, 2019.

  1. Dan Stromberg

    Dan Stromberg

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    Hi all,

    I'm looking to upgrade my respirator (a little -- I'm not mentally prepared to drop the big bucks if the primary advantage is mostly comfort.) I have a basic 3M respirator with some old carbon filters, but I think I can probably do better. My main concern is turning away the mold that may have accumulated on blanks as they have dried. The first question is what level of respirator would be required to protect against airborne mold spores of the type that tends to grow on wood? I've been looking at the two Elipse respirators (P100 and P100OV for organic vapors). Would mold spores qualify as organic vapors? (They're certainly organic, but I wouldn't call them vapors.)

    Second question (and I suspect this is the more relevant one) -- am I going about this all wrong? I have a feeling that I have a fundamental misunderstanding about where the dangers and mitigators are. What's a better way of dealing with mold on a blank? Toss the whole thing?

    Thanks as always,

    Dan
     
  2. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    Mold spores aren't a vapor in the strictest sense. But they are tiny and can be inhaled. This is where an air filtration system will be handy. The spores will linger in the air long after you have turned off the lathe. You posted a good question.
    Be glad you don't know what you inhale every day.
     
  3. BobCoates

    BobCoates

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    I have had the p100 for several years and have no problems with dust.
    Bob
     
  4. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Here is an excerpt from the CDC website about respirator filters. It came from a page where most of the information was discussing SARS. I might add that filters designed to filter out certain gasses or fumes aren't any better at filtering particulates than the plain particulate filters:

    An N-95 respirator is one of nine types of disposable particulate respirators.
    Particulate respirators are also known as “air-purifying respirators” because they protect by filtering particles out of the air as you breathe. These respirators protect only against particles—not gases or vapors. Since airborne biological agents such as bacteria or viruses are particles, they can be filtered by particulate respirators.

    Respirators that filter out at least 95% of airborne particles during “worse case” testing using a “most-penetrating” sized particle are given a 95 rating. Those that filter out at least 99% receive a “99” rating. And those that filter at least 99.97% (essentially 100%) receive a “100” rating.

    Respirators in this family are rated as N, R, or P for protection against oils. This rating is important in industry because some industrial oils can degrade the filter performance so it doesn’t filter properly.* Respirators are rated “N,” if they are Not resistant to oil, “R” if somewhat Resistant to oil, and “P” if strongly resistant (oil Proof). Thus, there are nine types of disposable particulate respirators:
    • N-95, N-99, and N-100;
    • R-95, R-99, and R-100;
    • P-95, P-99, and P-100
    NIOSH uses very high standards to test and approve respirators for occupational uses. NIOSH-approved disposable respirators are marked with the manufacturer’s name, the part number (P/N), the protection provided by the filter (e.g., N-95), and “NIOSH.” This information is printed on the facepiece, exhalation valve cover, or head straps. View a listing of all NIOSH-approved disposable respirators. If a disposable respirator does not have these markings and does not appear on one of these lists, it has not been certified by NIOSH. NIOSH also maintains a database of all NIOSH- approved respirators regardless of respirator type on the Certified Equipment List.​
     
  5. Dan Stromberg

    Dan Stromberg

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    Bill,

    Thank you very much for that excellent response. I'm going to need to bookmark this page somehow, as I know I'm going to need to find it again in the future. :) A couple of very useful points that really resonated with me (1) that a vapor respirator doesn't do any better at filtering particulates than a particulate filter, and (2) airborne biologics like mold are particles, and therefore can be filtered by a particulate respirator.

    So that does beg the (obviously novice) question -- from a woodworking perspective, what do the high-dollar respirators bring you that a basic $25 one doesn't? Powered airflow, I get it. Comfort and weight - if you're carrying a battery pack or attaching yourself to a hose, okay. But from a pure protection standpoint, is there a justification? There's no need to protect against random chemical fumes (I assume).

    Thank you again. I'm very glad I asked this.

    Dan
     
  6. Mark Wollschlager

    Mark Wollschlager

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    I have an Eclipse which I really like.
    I find it comfortable under most conditions.
    The fit is better than I can get with the 3m N95 masks I have, at the expense of a little comfort.
    It will fit under my Bionic face shield, just.
    I also have an older Triton helmet with a belt mounted blower filter. I use that with exotics.
     
  7. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I believe that the comfort difference isn't trivial, it is huge. In my climate area the non powered respirators are miserably hot and uncomfortable ... even if they have exhalation valves. Add a face shield over that and it becomes a real sauna. If your shop is air conditioned then the unpowered masks might be a good way to go.

    The powered respirator is like having a nice clean breeze blowing in your face while at the same time having far better head and face protection than a face shield. Somewhere in the garage I have a couple old unpowered respirators that I used when spraying herbicides and pesticides. They were tolerable in the spring, but miserable in the summer.
     
  8. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    Mold spores are physically from 5 to 95 micron (approximately). Sanding dust is from 10-1000 micron (approximately). Bill, did you find what size particles are the standard for OSHA's respiratory ratings? i.e. what size junk does an N95 catch 95% of?

    The topic of mold causes a great deal of passion and anxiety, but relatively speaking, it is not a dangerous environmental hazard. Yes, it can cause some people to get a congested and runny nose, have a 'sinus headache', or even develop wheezing. (and I have considerable respect for the seriousness of wheezing) Yes, some people are allergic to mold and rarely have more severe reactions. Yes, people with immune deficiency can have more serious problems. But for most of us, which is those without asthma, it's an annoyance. Sara Robinson, the world expert on spalting wood and the microorganisms that cause it, has flatly declared those specific fungi are not dangerous to people.

    Far more dangerous to us is the insidious, long term inhalation of shop dust particles, especially those containing certain mineral based dust. So Bill is right. Comfort and convenience are critical in respiratory protection, because the best protection comes from whatever you will actually use. A $1500 PAPR unit doesn't do you any good if you won't wear it.

    If the OP likes using a 3M half face respirator, it should work on mold as well as sanding dust, though he might want to use a 100 filter as mold spores are on the small end of the sanding dust size spectrum. I'd suggest a couple of the round, particulate filters, as they are fairly inexpensive and not a burden to change regularly. Just my 2 cents worth.
     
  9. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    You can swap your organic vapor cartridges on your 7500 series 3M face mask with particle filters, also known as "pancake" filters because they are flat.

    These filters are much easier to breathe through than the organic vapor cartridges. The 3M 2091 filter is just for particles—and is MUCH better than the N95 masks because the seal is so good. The 3M 2097 has charcoal in it that is good for a small amount of organic vapors. These cost a little more, but I only use the 2097. If I'm running the chainsaw for a long time, like processing blanks, I also use these to cut down on breathing 2 stroke exhaust.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
  10. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    All of the NIOSH approved filters are rated for their effectiveness in trapping particles that are 0.3 μm or larger in diameter. This is about the size of a virus cell or about one fiftieth the diameter of a human hair. A rating of 95 means that the filter will trap 95% of the particles. A rating of 100 means that the filter will trap 99.97% of the particles (in other words only three particles out of every ten thousand that are 0.3 μm in diameter will pass through the filter). A filter with a 100 rating is called a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrestance) filter.

    A question that I have seen a few times is whether a filter made using HEPA filter material also become by association a HEPA filter. This would sort of be like me asking if I used an Ellsworth bowl gouge would that automatically elevate my turning and creative ability to rock-star status. Just for the record, the answer to both questions would be "NO".

    BTW, if HEPA filters aren't quite good enough for you, there are ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) filters. I don't know where you would go to find them. They are typically used in semiconductor manufacturing clean rooms which automatically says that I couldn't afford it. The difference between HEPA and ULPA is the efficiency rating of the filter media. While typical HEPA filter media has an efficiency of 99.97% at 0.3 μm, ULPA media has an efficiency rating in excess of 99.999% at 0.12 μm.
     
  11. Mark Jundanian

    Mark Jundanian

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    I'm going to throw one other justification in there for your consideration. I find I can't easily wear a half mask or nose and mouth mask because of my bi-focals (actually blended lenses). The focal length of my glasses is very dependent on the position of my head and glasses. The masks push my eyeglasses up distorting my vision and the mask itself blocks my view for near field work.
     
    Dan Stromberg and Bill Boehme like this.
  12. Gerald Lawrence

    Gerald Lawrence

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    Not to put down dust protection as I use the Trend Pro, However to add to what Dean said on fungus per Dr Robinson. Fungus is in the air you breath so your exposure is there always. The same can be said for many other bacteria that are present in the environment we live in and sometimes with the correct conditions we will get a infection. Just so we are not paranoid about that stuff but still protect yourself from the obvious dust problems.
     
  13. Mark Wollschlager

    Mark Wollschlager

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    A growing number of people are being treated by medicines that suppress the immune system.
    Fungus spores are everywhere, but for folks who might fall into that group it might be a good idea to limit exposure to extra sources.
     
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  14. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    Definitely. One good news part is that the most common human internal disease causing fungi are different from the fungi that spalt wood. Probably from the ones that rot wood, too. That doesn't mean somebody somewhere could not possibly become infected with one of the wood fungi, but it would be far less likely than the human pathogenic fungi.
     
    Gerald Lawrence likes this.
  15. Dan Stromberg

    Dan Stromberg

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    Actually, I'm in the same boat. After my cataract surgery about 5 years ago (I'm only 45), my "installed" lenses only have a single focal length. So my ability to focus at different depths is 100% on my glasses.

    I agree with the other posters who commented that mold spores are in the air and that the more insidious risk is all the dust. It's good to know that the fungi that spalt wood tend to not be human disease causing. However, I feel that there's no reason not to minimize exposure if I can. But, the information is reassuring.
     

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