Occupational respiratory disease is a medical term used to describe diseases caused by, or made worse by something you breathe in*. It could be wood or stone dust, or fumes. Certain industries such as construction or manufacturing are recognised as being susceptible, but home DIY can also play a part if face masks aren’t used, aren’t fit for purpose or are of poor quality.
Not all face masks are the same, and you may not be aware that the quality of the dust mask, and the type of dust mask you are buying is critical in order to be sure you are protected.
A dust mask can help you to stay healthy. Specifically, it helps prevent the development of illnesses which could affect your airways – which could reduce the quality and length of your life. Wearing a mask can stop you from developing the symptoms of respiratory illness caused by inhalation of hazardous substances at work or at home (for example, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness or difficulty in breathing). Many dangerous substances exist as a fine dust or fume, or as a gas or vapour which you can’t see in the air, but even if you can’t see it, it could still be dangerous for your health. Also, if you think that the activity you’re doing is a quick job and therefore you don’t need a mask, you’re wrong - even a few moments exposure could make you ill.*
This means it’s important to choose the right product for the situation and use it correctly. We test many different types of masks, from disposable masks through to extremely complex breathing apparatus, and there are many industry standards which manufacturers ask us to test against, to prove that they are protecting the user.
In this programme, you’ll see face masks that might be used for DIY, tested using sodium/paraffin oil concentrations to represent fine solid and liquid particles, and dust clogging to represent working in dusty environments. Breathing resistance across the mask was measured to represent potential difficulty breathing when wearing a mask with these filters.
Here are some of the most common standards we test against:
EN 143:2000 (Respiratory protective devices – Particle filters)
EN 140:1999 (Respiratory protective devices – Half masks and quarter masks)
EN 136:1998 (Respiratory protective devices – Full face masks)
EN 149:2001+A1:2009 (Respiratory protective devices. Filtering half masks to protect against particles.)
*HSE, Breathe Easy