Why Wear a Respirator? (News Release)

Iowa State University Extension Farm operators know the importance of wearing protective equipment when working around pesticides or other toxic products. But what about other jobs?

Air-purifying respirators are recommended for activities where grain dust, molds, pollen, animal dander, dirt, welding fumes and diesel exhaust may be a problem. They're also recommended if you are bothered by dust, have congestion or respiratory problems, or it is recommended by your doctor.

Even where the concentration of dust is small, continual exposure to dusty conditions can lead to serious health problems including "farmer's lung." Dust particles accumulate in your lungs and can cause you to be easily tired or short of breath. Other tell-tale clues of breathing problems might be wheezing, coughing and congestion. You'll be more susceptible to colds, bronchitis, pneumonia and allergies as well.

In most cases, these conditions can be prevented with the use of an air-purifying respirator. This device has a mechanical filter or cartridge that cleans the air as the wearer breathes. Disposable respirators are acceptable as long as they fit well and are right for the job.

It's difficult to track the number of farms deaths due to respiratory diseases because they develop over time. The National Safety Council reported in 1990 that dust caused one-third of all farm-related respiratory illnesses among workers on large farms.

For more information, contact your local Extension office. A new Safe Farm publication soon will be available on this topic.

This news release was distributed by Iowa State University Extension as part of the Safe Farm Program. Safe Farm promotes health and safety in agriculture. It is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Iowa State University, and a network of groups that serve Iowa farm workers and their families. Distribution date: January 1993.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More