Respirator Particulate Filter & Cartridge

Different respirators and work environments require different respirator parts, including respirator cartridges and respirator filters. HomElectrical has a wide variety of NIOSH approved cartridges and filters to fit your respirator needs and guarantee the health and safety of yourself or your employees. Shop our selection today!

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What are the different types of respirators?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines 4 types of respirators:

Particulate respirators are the simplest and least expensive, but also least protective, type. They protect against particles in the air, but not gases or chemicals. They are classified with a letter to designate the type of particles that they protect against and a number to designate their efficiency. These respirators are designed for one-time use.

Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators use a cartridge or filter to filter chemical gases out of the air. They include a facepiece and a cartridge. They are reusable and must be cleaned regularly. They also require the cartridge or filter to be changed when needed.

Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR)use a fan to draw in air through the filter. They use the same type of cartridge as other air-purifying respirators. They also require a fully charged battery in order to work. Just like with the chemical cartridge respirators, these are reusable, though parts need to be replaced from time to time.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) use their own tank to supply air to the wearer. They offer the highest protection from greater concentrations of chemicals and from oxygen deficiency. Because of this, these respirators are used by firefighters. They are reusable as well and require specialized training before use.

How do respirators work?

Respirators are worn over the nose and mouth, and sometimes cover the whole face. They provide respiratory protection against nuisance level contaminants by either filtering particles from the air, chemically purify air, or bringing in air from an outside source. Tight fitting respirators require training and fit testing before they can be used.

What are filters and cartridges?

Filters trap air particles as the wearer breathes in, protecting the wearer from particulates, but not gases or vapors. The most common type of filter is a “pancake filter,” which is round and flat. Filters receive the same letter and number combination that particulate respirators receive. N designates non-oil-based particles, while R means oil resistant, and R means oil-proof. The number is the filter efficiency rating. For example, N95 respirators protect against 95% of non-oil-based particles, while P100 filters protect against 99.9% of oil-based particles.

Cartridges absorb hazardous vapors from the air. There are two types of cartridges: gas and vapor cartridges and combination cartridges. Gas and vapor cartridges are designed to protect against a specific gas or vapor. Combination cartridges protect against particulates as well as gases and vapors.

What is the difference between a respirator filter and a respirator cartridge?

Cartridges clean the air using their purifying agent, supplying the wearer with clean air when inhaled. Filters separate the hazardous debris from the breathable or non-lethal particulate matter. If you will be encountering hazardous gases or chemicals, you need a cartridge. If you will be encountering particles, you need a filter. If you are encountering both gases and particles, you need a combination cartridge, which protects against both.

What does the color coding on the cartridge mean?

Gas mask cartridges are color coded to designate the type of contaminant that they filter. Before youchoose a filter, make sure you know what hazards you will be facing. Keep in mind that if there is a large concentration of a hazard in the air, the mask will not be able to completely protect you, even with theright cartridge. Here is the official chart from OSHA on cartridge color coding:

ContaminantColor Coding on Cartridge/Canister
acid gasesWhite
hydrocyanic acid gasWhite with 1/2-inch green stripe completely around the canister near the bottom
chlorine gasWhite with 1/2-inch yellow stripe completely around the canister near the bottom
Organic VaporsBlack
Ammonia gasGreen
acid gases and ammonia gasGreen with 1/2-inch white stripe completely around the canister near the bottom
Acid gases and ammonia gasGreen with 1/2-inch white stripe completely around the canister near the bottom
Carbon monoxideBlue
Acid gases and organic vaporsYellow
Hydrocyanic acid gas and chloropicrin vaporYellow with 1/2-inch blue stripe completely around the canister near the bottom
Acid gases, organic vapors, and ammonia gasesBrown
Radioactive materials, except tritium & noble gases Purple (magenta)
PesticidesOrganic vapor canister plus a particulate filter
Multi-containment and CBRN agentOlive
Any particulates - P100Purple
Any particulates - P95, P99, R95, R99, R100Orange
Any particulates free of oil - N95, N99, or N100Teal

When do I need to change my respirator's cartridge or filter?

Once the cartridge has absorbed a certain amount of vapors, it will not absorb any more. If you are suddenly smelling unusual vapors through your respirator, it is time to change your cartridge. In addition, cartridges have an end of service life indicator, which changes colors when it needs to be changed. Make sure that when you buy a new cartridge, you check the expiration date on the package. Do not use it after the expiration date, even if you have not opened it. Filters need to be replaced when they are clogged with debris and it becomes harder to breathe.

What other respirator parts and accessories can I buy?

Besides the filter and cartridge, there are many other parts to the respirator that you may need to replace. Half-facepiece respirators have inhalation and exhalation valves, a filter holder, and the facepiece body. In addition to these parts, full-facepiece respirators also have masks to protect the eyes. Both types of respirators have straps to hold it in place on the wearer’s head. If you wear glasses and need to wear a full-face respirator, you need to buy a glasses insert first. Some respirators also have a nose clip to help adjust it to the wearer’s face.

HomElectrical carries a variety of respirators and accessories at competitive retail prices. Shop our selection today!

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