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Dust masks

I was updating an article from way back in 2008 and checked out a link to a product called AFM Safecoat. It had impressive credentials for being over 97% efficient at holding back formaldehyde, one of the compounds that cause sick buildings.

Then looking into the formaldehyde content in MDF, I came across this useful run down by HSE about using dust masks

Q8. If I do need to use respiratory protective equipment (RPE), what should I use – is a dust mask sufficient?

RPE should not be used as the only means of control as it should complement other control measures such as a dust extraction system. General information on RPE is available at respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide.

When you need to use RPE to provide protection against inhalation of wood dust, you should ensure that the RPE is adequate and suitable (for more information see selecting suitable respiratory protective equipment (PDF)- Portable Document Format).

In summary:

For RPE to be adequate you must select the right mask/respirator and filter. A face filtering piece (FFP) with an assigned protection factor of at least 20 e.g. FFP3 or a half-mask with a P3 particle filter can be used to protect against exposure to wood dust.

  • Do not use nuisance dust masks, FFP1 or FFP2 as they do not provide sufficient protection. If organic vapours are also present eg formaldehyde, then a half-mask with both a P3 particle filter and an appropriate filter for the organic substance could be used.

  • For RPE to be suitable it must fit the wearer and be appropriate for the task and environment. For tight-fitting masks like a dust mask you must ensure that the mask fits the worker by undertaking ‘face fit’ testing (for further details see Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing).

  • Workers wearing tight-fitting masks must be clean-shaven as stubble prevents the mask sealing properly against the face. The mask worn should be compatible with any other protective equipment worn e.g. safety glasses, hearing protection.

Any RPE should be used correctly, and filters changed regularly, in accordance with the manufacturers instructions. Respirators must also be stored correctly and, for non-disposable RPE like half-masks, properly maintained by a competent person.

Super dust masks

A few years ago we were testing an extraordinarily high spec 2-pack polyurethane paint for kitchen cabinets. The journey led us deep into occupational Health and Safety concerns. One of the experts I met was Richard from Allpipe.

This is what he specified for anyone using paint or glue containing isocyanates. A1B12E1K1-P3 combined filter and half face mask.