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Selection of the proper respirator
for a given exposure is critical. If the pesticide you are exposed to is an irritant
to your eyes, nose or throat, a full-face respirator should be worn. For air-purifying
respirators, the air- purifying filter or cartridge must be approved by NIOSH/MSHA
for use against a specific hazard. Pesticide product labels are the primary source
of information on which type of respiratory protection is necessary for use with
The safety modules
may be used by anyone with the understanding that credit be given to AgSafe.
Dusts, fumes, gases or vapors, and temperature extremes can penetrate and damage
your respiratory system. Dust and fumes can irritate your nose and throat, and
in some cases, your lungs. (See Figure 1
.) Gases and
vapors can be absorbed from your lungs into your bloodstream, where they have
the potential to damage your brain and internal organs. Very hot or cold air can
damage the fine tissues in your mouth and airway and interfere with your normal
Regular cleaning and inspection prolongs the respirator's useful life and assures
you that it is working as efficiently as possible. (See Figure
.) For personal hygiene and communicable disease prevention, respirators
should not be passed from one person to another without first being cleaned and
When not in use, respirators should be stored to prevent conditions that can deform
the face piece, and that protect it from excessive exposure to dust, sunlight,
extreme temperatures, excessive moisture or damaging chemicals. Plastic containers
with lids can provide adequate storage for respirators. (See Figure
Respirators maintained for emergency use, such as canister gas masks and self-contained
breathing apparatus (SCUBA), should be inspected at least monthly to assure reliable
operation when it is needed. (See Figure 4
.) All respirators
should be inspected before each use to ensure cleanliness and that all components
are present and operable.
Breathing through a respirator may require more effort than normal breathing.
This effort can be difficult for some individuals, for various reasons. (See Figure
.) If you have a medical limitation that may interfere with your wearing
a respirator, be sure to inform your supervisor. You may be required to have an
examination by your physician to determine if you are physically able to perform
the work while wearing a respirator.
Respirators cannot adequately protect a worker from all contaminants under all
conditions. In general, the typical half-face air-purifying respirator can be
used for protection in environments of up to 10 times the Permissible Exposure
Level (PEL). However, the cartridges or canisters of air-purifying respirators
have a limited capacity to protect against toxic gases and vapors in the air.
If you detect an odor or taste, or feel your eyes or throat irritated, leave the
hazardous area immediately and go to a safe area. (See Figure
.) The cartridge or canister on the respirator should be changed. The California
Department of Food and Agriculture requires that air-purifying elements be replaced
Air-purifying respirators (canisters or cartridges) do not provide oxygen. They
should not be used in situations where the oxygen content in the air is questionable.
(See Figure 7
Only a secure and snug fit protects you, so make sure you have
the right size respirator for your face. The shape of your face,
facial hair and condition of your skin can affect your fit.
Try various sizes until you find one where air does not leak
in around the edges. You can test the respirator fit by placing
the palms of your hands over the cartridges and breathing in
for 10 seconds. (See Figure 8
fit properly, the mask should suck in tightly around your face.
Publication #: CA 94720
publication is compiled from various reference sources and
is designed to provide current and authoritative information
on the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding
that the publishers are not engaged in rendering medical,
legal, accounting or other professional service. AgSafe, the
Safety Center, Inc., and FELS believe the information provided
to be correct, but assume no liability for consequential or
other damages attendant to the use of this material. In no
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Warren Hall, University of California, Berkeley,
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