The use of tools and equipment can produce fine dust and particles, gases and vapours. Which dust mask should you use for which task? In this article, we discuss the different types of dust masks and explain in what circumstances you should use them.
Are you asking yourself the best type of respiratory protection you can use for a particular job? The number of choices when it comes to dust masks can sometimes be overwhelming. How do you know which mask to use for which purpose? There is often a lack of clarity about the different types of dust masks for sale, and usually, many end up using the wrong dust mask for the job. In this article, we discuss the different types of dust masks and explain in what circumstances you should use them.
Why use a dust mask?
The use of tools and equipment can produce fine dust and particles, gases, and vapours. Silica dust from bricks can cause lung and respiratory diseases, such as emphysema, bronchitis, and silicosis, increasing the risk of cancer. Carbon monoxide, derived from gasoline, can cause headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and it can lead to more severe illness after coming into contact with high concentrations or prolonged exposure to these substances.
Two categories of dust masks
There are two categories of dust masks: disposable dust masks and more covering masks. For disposable dust masks, also known as dust protection classes, there are three qualities of protection which are indicated with an FFP code: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. FFP stands for Filtering Facepiece Particles. Concerning more covering dust masks, three classes are designated: P1, P2 and P3.
You can compare the way a dust filter filters air to a sieve. The finer the sieve, the more it filters. A finer dust filter will filter better, and therefore, it will also stop smaller dust particles. However, the disadvantage is that the holes for breathing are also smaller, and it becomes significantly difficult to breathe in and out.
P1 / FFP1 dust masks
A P1 dust mask protects against low amounts of dust and solid and liquid aerosols. You can use this type of mask for manual sanding, drilling, and cutting of materials. FFP1 masks have a filter efficiency of at least 78%.
A P1 mask is suitable for work where dust, smoke, or mist are produced, which cannot cause damage to the respiratory system, such as when stone gravel or wood splinters are released. Therefore, use a dust mask with a P1 filter when sanding, planning, or sawing manually.
P2 / FFP2 dust masks
A P2 dust mask protects against moderate dust levels and solid and liquid aerosols. You can use this type of mask when plastering or sanding. Small particles of dust can be released when sanding or when working with insulation materials.
Therefore, use a P2 dust mask to avoid harmful substances such as smoke and vapour that can affect the respiratory tract and dust that is released when treating plasterboard. A dust mask with a P2 filter is recommended for machine sanding/sawing, grinding, milling, demolition or when mixing plaster.
P3 / FFP3 dust masks
A P3 dust mask protects against a large amount of dust and solid and liquid aerosols. You can use this type of mask for handling hazardous powders such as those in the pharmaceutical industry. A P3 dust mask is necessary when high concentrations of harmful substances are released during the work.
For example, fine dust can seriously affect the respiratory system and can even be absorbed into the blood. To protect against radioactive substances, viruses, enzymes, bacteria and spores, a dust mask with a P3 filter, for example, should be used which seals the entire face well.
Using a dust mask of the FFP3 category is necessary when you work with toxic substances or when exposed to substances such as asbestos. Therefore, an FFP3 dust mask is a must, especially when carrying out demolition work. If you are indecisive about which mask to wear for the job, it is always better to go for higher protection than low ones. Better safe than sorry!
What shape of mask?
Not only is the type of filter significant, but there is also a distinction between the shape of the mask. In general, there are three types of masks: the dust mask, half face mask and full face mask.
Disposable dust mask
Disposable dust masks only cover the mouth, nose and chin. These dust masks are disposable and can therefore only be used once. Disposable dust masks are identified by an FFP code (FFP1, FFP2, FFP3). 3M dust masks are an example of one of the most commonly used dust masks that are also disposable.
Half masks cover only the nose, mouth and chin. You can reuse a half-mask after a thorough cleaning. This type of dust mask is available with one or two filters. Each filter protects against a different kind of danger. 3M also has half masks in its range, such as the 3M 6200 series.
Full face mask
Full face masks cover the mouth, nose, chin and face and therefore offer complete protection of the face. A full-face mask protects the entire face, including the eyes. This type of mask seals properly and does not let substances in on the sides. Here you can opt for a full face mask from the Moldex brand with a frameless panoramic window for a broad view.
Do you want to find out more about safety in the workplace? Read our article “Avoid risks, especially in this time of crisis.”