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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 product.
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UNDERSTAND RESPIRATORY HAZARDS
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 breathing.
CLEAN YOUR RESPIRATOR REGULARLY
Regular cleaning and inspection prolongs the respirator's useful life and assures you that it is working as efficiently as possible. (See Figure 2.) For personal hygiene and communicable disease prevention, respirators should not be passed from one person to another without first being cleaned and sanitized.
STORE RESPIRATORS IN SEALED, DRY CONTAINERS
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 3.)
INSPECT RESPIRATORS MAINTAINED FOR EMERGENCY USE AT LEAST MONTHLY
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 REQUIRES MORE EFFORT
Breathing through a respirator may require more effort than normal breathing. This effort can be difficult for some individuals, for various reasons. (See Figure 5.) 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 DO HAVE LIMITS
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 6.) The cartridge or canister on the respirator should be changed. The California Department of Food and Agriculture requires that air-purifying elements be replaced daily.
RESPIRATORS DO NOT PROVIDE OXYGEN
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.)
MAKE SURE THE RESPIRATOR FITS SNUGLY ON YOUR FACE
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.) If fit properly, the mask should suck in tightly around your face.
This 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 event shall the liability of AgSafe, the Safety Center, Inc., or FELS for any claim, however designated, exceed the purchase price, if any, for this publication. No claim may be maintained against AgSafe, the Safety Center, Inc., or FELS in any tribunal unless written notice of the claim is delivered to the applicable entity within 30 days of its discovery. Information about the Agsafe Project can be obtained by writing to Agsafe, 140 Warren Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
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