When Cleaning Requires a Respirator

The N95 respirator is an air purifier designed to protect the user from hazardous dust, gases, fumes or vapor. N95 is a designation that means the mask is capable of filtering at least 95 percent of airborne particles that do not contain any oil or grease.

Respirators are more effective than paper masks, also known as “surgical masks.” While sufficient to protect against the kinds of fumes most people are likely to encounter in household cleaning and repair tasks, N95 respirators are not gas masks, which use more sophisticated cartridges or filters to shield the user from dangerous chemical agents.

Respirators of all kinds are considered to be a last line of defense against hazardous airborne substances; they should be worn in addition to taking other measures to mitigate risk, such as ensuring adequate ventilation.

Some examples of tasks for which a respirator is recommended include:

* Cleaning tasks involving chemicals, particularly strong acids, alkalies, solvents or chlorine.
* The application of pesticides, lacquers and enamels.
* Large-scale painting involving the use of paint thinners or paint-spraying equipment, particularly indoors.
* Sanding surfaces and any task that may generate lead dust, mold/mildew spores or fiberglass fibers.

Read all product labels carefully to determine when use of a respirator is recommended. Respirators intended for household use are sold by many home centers and hardware stores.

Reference: The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, a division of the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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