One of the questions that we get almost every day, sometimes several times a day, is “Which cartridge should I use for _________ (fill in the blank with the process or chemical in question)?”
It is also one of the questions that we will not answer for you.
Why? First and foremost because of liability and secondly because we don’t know the full story and cannot be telling you what you should use.
So, how do you find out what to use?
The answer really isn’t all that complicated but the procedure might be…
- What are you being exposed to?
- What are the concentrations?
- How long are you going to be exposed to it?
The answers to the three questions above are going to determine which respirator cartridge, and, in some cases, which respirator you need to be wearing. The problem is that, most often, the person on the phone can’t give us an answer to one or more of these questions. If you can’t answer all three than you need to find the answers before you start wearing a respirator.
One of the first places to start, is to look at the MSDS sheet or the back of the can or bottle of whatever it is that you are trying to protect against. The manufacturer should have done the research for you. They should be able to tell you which cartridge you need to use to protect yourself. If you can’t find the information you need, you should call the manufacturer and insist that they get you the information you need. Call them, not us (not that we don’t want to help, it’s just that we can’t provide you with the information that they have).
Secondly is the issue of concentrations. Knowing how much of the “methel-ethel-bad-stuff” you are being exposed to is important in determining two things:
- Is a cartridge going to be good enough or do you need to step up to a supplied air system, SCBA, etc…
- How long the cartridge is going to last. Every cartridge has a service life (the manufacturer of the cartridge should be able to give you this information). Match the concentration of the substance you are protecting against to this chart and it will tell you when you need to swap the cartridge out.
Finally, the issue of how long you will be working around the stuff will further tell you the level of protection you need. Exposure to 10 ppm for one hour is obviously not the same as exposure to 5 ppm over a period of 10 hours. In the first case you are only exposed to 10 ppm for the whole day, while in the second case you are exposed to 50 ppm.
For a fuller study and explanation concerning respiratory protection, download “The Basics of Respiratory Protection“