• Comments (66)

    • 8

      Thank you for such a detailed article. I was surprised your most recommended full face respirator is Italian and even more surprised that is readily available in the US but hard to find in the UK.

      When analyzing the Mestel products, did you look at the TP 400/3 AS? Any reason to discard it in favor of the SGE 400/3BB?

      • 6

        Glad you enjoyed! I saw the TP on Mestel’s website, but get the impression it’s simply a variation that has connection points for riot helmets that the Italian police wear. I’m sure it’s just as effective as a normal 400/3 or 400/3 BB, but if it’s more expensive, I’d say there’s no reason to get it over the normal models.

        Have you seen other ways in which it’s different?

      • 5

        No, I haven’t, but then again, I know very little about respirators.

      • 5

        Well, we did the work so you don’t have to!

    • 2

      Thank you! I’ve been wondering what N95, etc., meant, and this explained it perfectly. And thanks for the mask recommendations. It helped out a lot.

      • 1

        Thanks, you’re most welcome! What did you end up getting? Once you’ve tried it on, let us know what you think.

    • 6

      Is there anything that a CBRN rated filter can filter that a 3M “60926” couldn’t?

      https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US…

      • 9

        Although the 60926 is pretty robust, and it’s hard to know exactly where the Venn Diagram overlaps and where it doesn’t, I would not assume that filter can handle CBRN threats and would not knowingly choose it for CBRN protection instead of something properly tested and certified.

        Being CBRN / NBC rated is a legit thing – meaning 3M would say its CBRN capable if it were, and that there are meaningful differences between being CBRN capable and not. The industrial stuff is built for industrial threats (the kinds of vapors common in a factory etc), and they likely don’t even test it against CBRN threats.

    • 3

      I am looking for a mask to carry on an airliner. Recently there have been airline mishaps where the cabin filled with smoke. The latest American airline incident was a leaking iol seal in the engine that released oil smoke in the cabin.The passengers had to breath the smoke for a half hour before landing. Some of this smoke may have carbon monoxide. I dont see any filters that talk about this. Problem is to find a mask that can be carried on the plane without taking up a lot of room but one that protects against airliner cabin smoke toxins and last at least 30 min to an hour as may take a while for the airliner to land.

      • 5

        A full-face gas mask is legally allowed on a plane, and is most capable of handling non-particulate gas threats, but that’s a lot of bulk to bring for the very small chance you need it. On the flip side, disposable half-faces are easy to throw in your bag, and they would make a meaningful difference in that oil smoke scenario. If I were in your shoes, I’d carry a solid P100 disposable like the 3M 8293.

    • 6

      Question it’s only now occurred to me to ask that (surprisingly!) I don’t see addressed above: What’s the lifespan or usage duration for the “disposable” N95 types of masks? (That is, it’s implied I’ll want to dispose of it at some point, but when? After 1 session using it? X many hours of usage?) thanks!

      • 5

        It’s very hard to give an accurate lifespan rating on a respirator because it depends a lot on how they’re used. What’s the air like, how dense and large are the particulates (which clogs the filter faster), how fast are you breathing, and so on.

        But they generally don’t last as long as people assume. It’s measured in hours, not days.

        Assuming you have supply, my view is to use it until I notice a reduction in breathing ease, which means the filter is near end of life.

      • 8

        I would also add that the mask should be fit-tested and the straps should be inspected. If the straps start to wear out, you will lose your seal, which usually happens after 2-3 days of use, but could be sooner if you’re donning/doffing it (ie pulling on the straps) more frequently.

        Also any visible soiling or staining on the mask can compromise the filter. That’s why many healthcare workers are currently wearing a loose surgical mask over their disposable n95 during this COVID-19 pandemic. It helps keep splashes of blood, urine, feces, etc from landing on the mask and compromising the filtration.

    • 3

      Hi there, thanks for taking the time to create this article.

      You wrote that the RZ Mask isn’t NIOSH approved and i’m a little confused.

      On the website, their report (https://rzmask.com/pages/technical-information) by Nelson Labs whom tested the masks showed that each filter (F1-3) met the acceptance criteria. I’m no expert but doesn’t that mean it has indeed passed the NIOSH standard criteria or am I wrong?

      Though the lack of them saying that it is actually certified is concerning…

      • 5

        While there’s a chance something has changed since we last looked, IIRC there’s a difference between being officially NIOSH approved and “meeting the criteria.” In practice it may not be a big difference, but that greatly depends on the trustworthiness of the brand (and it’s been abused before, like in the body armor market.)

        If you’re specifically thinking about the coronavirus, these types of masks are better than nothing and likely fine. This general article was meant to cover other things too, like chemicals.

        I hope to update this page soon, partly because the RZ-style masks in market have improved a bit in the last year.

      • 8

        I emailed Vogmask about this recently. What John said is correct, that “meeting the criteria” and “actual NIOSH certification” are two different things.

        My understanding is that NIOSH mainly/exclsively certifies masks for professional uses. Vogmask’s rep quoted me this, but didn’t cite a source: “All labeling and user instructions must meet the minimum criteria and approved NIOSH certified products cannot be marketed for use by the general public.”

        As such, something like a pollution mask marketed to the general public is not applicable to NIOSH certification, but some decide to test their products to the same standards by an independent testing company.

      • 5

        Nice job on the primary research!

    • 5

      I found this great one-page reference for 3M masks and filters. Thought it might be worth sharing.

      https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/40744O/3m-respirator-cartridge-and-filter-selection-poster.pdf

    • 4

      First, Thank you so much for your research and writing/posting this article. I have been researching for just this kind of information and don’t even recall how I found this.

      My concern is for a mask for my little child, 7 year old.. in viewing the masks mentioned for children (looked at all types mentioned for kids, on Ebay) I am finding that the ones from Russia are from the 70’s-80’s and are VERY inexpensive, as much as I’d like to get them on the ‘cheap’, I want them to work and not be ‘cheap’.. any guidance on this?

      • 4

        It’s hard enough getting proper respiratory protection for little faces, so I would absolutely avoid anything old and from the soviet bloc. Not worth the risk, and we’ve seen too many instances of failures among those kinds of surplus models. Perhaps look at the Vogmask styles, as those can sometimes work on small faces too.

    • 6
    • 5

      I have a 3M 7800b which takes the 40mm filter. What is the cheapest 40mm filter that will combat the coronavirus? It seems like a simple question but I can’t seem to get a answer. I dont want to waste my CBRN filters if there is a outbreak nor do I want to waste money on a overkill filter since I will need to buy alot of them. My understanding is that the filters are one shot use. Go to town, come home and replace filter for next trip. Can you give me multiple options if possible. Thank you !!

      • 7

        Good question, but I don’t have answers off top of head because typically if someone is at the level of a full face mask, they are covering CBRN scenarios too.

        Perhaps the “riot control” (RCA) options are better since they’re a lower level of protection (but still N95/P100)?

        Anyone else chip in?

      • 7

        I am still batting zero, I have made a lot of phone calls and nadda. I sorta regret buying a 7800b now, I should have bought the 7800 which takes a proprietary 3m filter and a adapter for 40mm, super easy to get and cheap. The 40mm is hard to get here, no seems to carry it and if they do its the most expensive variation.

      • 8

        Bummer to hear, but thanks for update. I have a few of the proprietary 3M masks / cartridges, never went the 40mm route with them.

      • 5

        I found a bunch of Canadian Military surplus filters at the gun show so I am stocked now. I also have a bunch of 3m half masks and filters. I ran a dry run with my 3m 7800B and I was surprised to learn that I have to cock my ar/vcog a full 45 degrees to get a sight picture. I googled this issue and learned that is it common with a lot of masks, some more, some less. Does someone have first hand experience with a lower profile mask. I would like to sell mine and purchase that style.  Thanks !!

    • 3

      Thank you so much for this info!

      How long do disposable ones works for protection from Covid?

    • 6

      What about Mira vs Mestel? I bought mira but now I”m wondering about this mestel. of course no comparison so not sure.

       

    • 6

      Thank you for this incredibly informative article! I have a question. What if a 12 year old were to get a half face respirator with the small/extra small size? I know you said that there is no proof that it works, but at that age do you think it would at least help?

      • 2

        Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific age where a respirator becomes effective for children, since the size/shape of the face and the resulting seal are most important. So someone might be younger but with a big enough face. Just be sure to check the fit / seal once you’ve got a respirator.

    • 3

      Trouble in COVID or other pandemic cases is that snorkel masks exhale your virus shedding back into the air around you. bad manners I dare say…

    • 4

      Great info! I bought a half-face respirator thanks to this article. Was wondering if there are any guidelines for cleaning them—especially the cartridges—during the coronavirus outbreak? Thanks!

      • 7

        Not off the top of my head. Anyone else? I’m not aware of any best practice around cleaning those cartridges, since people just use and toss them. Check 3M?

      • 6

        My current understanding is that for the mask itself, a wipe down with a clean damp cloth, or alcohol wipe, is pretty much all it needs. 3M also sells specific cleaning wipes for masks. https://www.3mcanada.ca/3M/en_CA/company-ca/all-3m-products/~/3M-Respirator-Cleaning-Wipe-504-alcohol-free-1-pack/?N=5002385+8709320+3293806380&rt=rud

        If the o-rings start to go or the mask leaks, you can get maintenance kits too, though I’m not sure how commonly they’re sold and for the price of a new mask, if you used it that much just replace it entirely is my theory.

        For the filters, once they’re “used up” (which is a really, really vague and hard to determine amount of time), you pretty much chuck them. In the case of the N95/N100/P100 filters, there is a lot of talk about leaving them somewhere isolated, or in a sealed bag, for 4 or 5 days to let the virus in them die, before using them on a mask again, and then you can get several uses before they’re “used up”. I’ve also seen descriptions of baking disposable masks at a certain temperature to kill the virus faster, however in the case of cartridges I imagine the plastic would make that a poor idea, since it could melt.
        I don’t know how good this information is or if it has any validity. I don’t want to spread any false information, so please take this with a grain of salt. It sounds reasonable, but I don’t know to what extent this has actually been tested.

      • 5

        Thanks, both. To clarify, I mean cleaning the cartridges to remove the virus. The 3M wipes—if you can even get them, they seem to be sold out on Amazon—are just for removing dirt and perspiration. Given that they are supposed to last ~30 days/40 hours, I guess I will follow Greggorievich’s advice and leave for a few days before using again. I might leave out, as opposed to placing in a sealed bag, which could prove to be a nice little petri dish incubator in a So Cal climate. Thanks for weighing in! I appreciate the opportunity to hear from others and bounce ideas around.

    • 7

      Question—Your recommended 3M 7500 Half Facepiece Respirator (which I own with P100 filters) has an exhale valve, which I assume allows any viruses *I* have to be exhaled into the air around me, making it fine for protecting *me*, but no good for protecting *others*. Correct? Am I missing something?

      • 5

        You’re correct. Based on some research, and notably a FAQ from 3M that I’ll link below, it sounds like you would be exhaling whatever you have back into the environment. If this worries you, you can lay a small piece of fabric/plastic over the valve and tape it at the top (creating a kind of hinge), which will deflect exhaled particles the same way a bandana or surgical mask would.

        Source: https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/576136O/respiratory-protection-for-exposures-to-the-influenza-virus.pdf (bottom of page 3)

      • 8

        Thanks for your quick answer. Since virologists are advising that we should all be assuming we’re asymptomatic, it’s imperative to protect others as well as ourselves. I’ll be adding a taped square of meltblown nonwoven filter fabric, like the type used in surgical masks.

      • 6

        Hi A2 — I have the same 3M 7500 mask as you and the same concerns. I tried to cover the exhalation port with a cut up mask, but it’s been hilariously hard to exhale (exhaling too hard will cause my breath to just come out from the sides of the mask, instead).

        Have you had any luck filtering your Cool Flow valve?

      • 3

        Hey AWP,

        I bought a roll of filter fabric (meltblown, nonwoven, 10m) on Amazon and duct-taped it to the inside. Not as thick as your cut up mask, I’m thinking. Works pretty well. The mask is hard to breathe through, regardless. Learned that after getting dizzy at the grocery store and releasing I was breathing normally and needed to be breathing *much* more strongly to allow for all that filtering.

        I’ve solved the issue by buying all groceries via Instacart and a CSA. When I had to go to medical facilities for some tests, I wore a N95 respirator/mask with a surgical mask on top.

      • 3

        I have the 7500 from 3M as well and can breathe pretty well after taping a cutoff piece of surgical mask over the exhalation valve. 

        According to the CDC“If you only have a respirator with an exhalation valve available, cover the exhalation valve with a facemask (surgical or procedure mask) that does not interfere with the respirator fit.”​

        Trying to wear a facemask over the 7500 was challenging to keep in place (and probably looked hilarious) so I opted for the tape-in-place method.

      • 6

        Why would the virus particles make it through to the outside, it’s not like its a one way valve that only allows going through the filter on the way in. I would say that in reality the mask still filters but however the amount of virus particles in the air surrounding someone who is infected would be Significantly greater than those found in the air where someone who was infected may have been recently. Making the odds of virus particles making it out into the world a much greater probability of success over time than a few getting through your filter and infecting you with an N95 on. Or am I not understanding something about n95 structure that only filters primarily from one direction? Oh wait, is that little structure the check valve on the mask? and so all masks have this checkvalve and I was just too silly to realize it? doh

      • 4

        Robert, the respirator I’m talking about (the 3M 7500 Half Facepiece Respirator) has an exhalation valve so that the respirator stays cooler and doesn’t fog up as easily. But the downside is that one’s exhalations are venting to the environment.

        So I’m not talking about the P100 or N95 filters (which screw on to the sides of the respirator) but rather the exhalation valve (at the bottom of the respirator), which is another part of the respirator entirely.

    • 6

      Just a warning on buying 40mm filters online. A lot of the filters for sale online are surplus filters which are close to expiration or are expired. This would be fine if your were charged surplus price, problem is you are not. The sellers are charging full list or in a lot of cases even more. I have seen this on the big box sites like Amazon.

      Make sure you verify the expiration date. I just received my order of 3M FR15’s, I ordered directly from 3M (through a supplier), they are 5 months old. That is normal, not 3 or 4 years old, or worse yet expired.

      • 3

        I’m curious, how is an expiration date calculated? I think that a sealed canister of blown fabric mask would have no expiration date. I mean it’s like the guy who ate expired food for a year, no ill effects. Higher consequences, but still…plus I heard that pharmaceuticals are not tested to degradation over time. That Z pack 5 years old should be kept just in case and my nephew will gladly accept your expired Schedule II drugs, LOL

      • 7

        I am not sure, that will be something only the manufacturer can answer. The filters I purchased have a 5 year shelf life. I am sure you can go past 5 years.. that said at a certain point they will break down, use your own judgement.

        The point I was trying to make, do not buy surplus filters and pay full price. A lot of government agencies etc. will dump their filters when they are close to expiration and restock. I noticed most of the CBRN filters on Amazon were almost expired, reviewers were complaining, some had gotten expired filters.

    • 7

      Evidently you are not aware Italy is a G8 country with a solid and wide spread production range for industrial, defence, aerospace, medicine, cruise ship, aircraft mechanical, chemical just to name few without comparison in Europe, we are #1 on different markets. I won’t name home furnitures, motorbikes, cars etc.Biggest export portfolio in Europe, food ranked #1, 4 times world cup footbal winners, landscapes with Alps and carribbean looking seas-

      • 4

        I know that I was not aware, but I don’t spend a lot of time on the European market. Thank you for sharing!

    • 5

      Anyone know how to interpret (I’m assuming it is) the date code on the Tan Israeli NBC Type 80 Filters? I contacted Shalon but have not gotten a response. For instance, I have one that says “92282”. It came with a mask, and as John indicated I anticipated it to be expired. When I inquired with the seller he said 5 more years on shelf life but I am doubtful. Thanks! 

      • 3

        You would need to contact the maufacture (of the filter) to find out how to intrepret the date code. If stored properly you MAY get 5 years past experiation. That said its not worth much, I pay $25-30 for expired filters.

      • 9

        Interesting on buying expired filters. If you don’t mind me asking, is the thought they are still usable to some degree? I have seen some people discussing on the line (so it must be true) that the filter date mainly indicates the charcoal/absorbency life for CBRN/NBC gas protection. Since the particulate filter portion is still physically present, and assuming not degraded, these canisters would still be good for particulates (including CS)? It sounds logical, but I am curious as to if you or others had any insight into this? Obviously I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but something is better then nothing I would guess. Thanks, Jay!   

    • 5

      The O2 Curve is intriguing. It’s not yet NIOSH N95 certified, but that is due to idiosyncracies in the NIOSH testing process that are not compatible with the O2 Curve’s design. I bought one and am happy with it, very comfortable.

      O2 Curve Respirator 1.2

    • 7

      I have a question about the fit test. Despite having a beard, I went ahead and bought a half-piece respirator (the 3M 6501QL), as I wanted some protection from sawdust and such (and I figured I didn’t mind shaving my beard off if necessary). When I wear it and perform the simple at-home fit test described above and elsewhere (cover the filter holes), I’m totally unable to breathe and the respirator buckles in slightly, which matches the success criteria. Does this mean I do have an airtight seal, despite my beard being in the way?

      I’m surprised as the facial hair in the relevant areas definitely seems longer than stubble, though I guess it is on the shorter (and lighter) side, and I tend to trim a bit closer along the mask lines so as to achieve a tighter seal with my usual daily-use masks.

    • 8

      Living as I do in wildfire country (Northern California) I thought I would buy the 3M Half Face 7502 respirator recommended on this site. But we lay people really need more guidance about how to decide on the right filter and what to buy. I don’t tend to tolerate masks very well, so I’m just looking for an N95 particulate filter to go with this mask (the N100 will be harder to breathe through). But I have no idea what to buy or where to but it. There is a plethora of filters out there but I don’t even know which of them fit this mask. And there are also filters vs. cartridges. I don’t know how that works. I don’t know what attachments the mask has. So, I’m kind of dead in the water here. Anybody want to give me a hand? Thanks in advance.

      • 6

        Standard disclaimer, I’m not a doctor, lawyer, medical expert, 3M rep, or even a particularly good cook. The below is based on my best understanding, it’s not gospel.

        The mating between 3M masks and 3M filters/cartridges is universal – either 40mm threaded mounts (like gas masks), or the 3M bayonet style mount. Your 7502 uses the bayonet style. I’ve leveraged 3M’s filter selection poster a lot for reference, you can generally assume that all of the filters here fit your mask: https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/40744O/3m-respirator-cartridge-and-filter-selection-poster.pdf

        The closest simple solution for you would be either part number 2071 (P95), or some new filters 3M made that are P100 but designed to be easier to breathe through. These would be 2291, 2296, and 2297, for a plain P100 and models that deal with “nuisance levels” of acid gas or organic vapour.

        You might also want to try something like an O2 Canada Curve mask: https://o2canada.com/ They’re not officially N95 rated but the company claims to exceed the standards, ant it’s a lot more public friendly. I have both a 3M half face mask (but not the 7500 series specifically) and an O2 Curve and the latter is much smaller and more easy to wear.

        For sources for the 3M filters, I’ve had the best luck with industrial suppliers in the past – think about places like Acklands Grainger, Uline, Shippers Supply, or so on, though some might not sell to the general public.

      • 5

        Thank you very much for the ref to the poster and, especially for the tip re: 02 Curve. I’m excited to try it!

      • 5

        I’d call 3M

    • 3

      John,

      Thanks for the detailed information and all the hard work involved in compiling it all together in an easy to understand way.  Any comments on how the Mira brand of gas masks compare to the ones you recommend?

      Thanks again!

      • 3

        Thanks! We have some Miras on hand for testing, we just haven’t gotten back to updating this article yet, hope to asap. Haven’t been able to test the seals/valves/filters against an actual aerosol yet, but the fit and quality seem fine, so I don’t have any concerns about telling you to buy one if that’s what you’re looking at. I suspect once we’re done testing they’ll make the recommended list. 

        Mira has made a big marketing push the last few years, probably moreso than any other respirator for civilians, so they’ve done a good job of getting the brand name out there. I’m sure the covid panic buying was huge for them. 

    • 2

      Those disposables look like they’d get crushed when thrown into a Go Bag — how do y’all store these so that they’re in good condition when you need them?

      • 2

        I had this concern as well when setting up my BOB, plus the bulkiness of them. And also didn’t want a full face respirator because of the bulk. But I did want some sort of decent mask that I could have which would be better than a cotton bandanna.

        I ended up on a flat folding model from 3M. I placed these masks into their own individual gallon zip bags to keep them air tight and to extend the life. 

        If you do want to go with the more rounded shaped mask, sometimes they are packaged in a semi rigid plastic case, keep that and use it for some level of protection against crushing.

        They do make hard cases for small respirators that would also be able to fit something like an N95 or N100.

      • 3

        I used an empty 51oz powdered gatorade can (with a pop on lid) to protect them from getting smushed. It’s not fool proof, but I also put socks and underwear in there (as part of my Bob) and it packs pretty decent into the pack. I can even access it from the top with the pop off lid. When I was a kid I remember using Folgers cans and tea-lights for improvised cook stoves…i wonder if the laminated/foiled cardboard o the gatorade can would afford similar benefit since it has an aluminum bottom…

    • 1

      A Facebook ad of all things led me to this child escape respirator gas mask. https://www.mirasafety.com/products/cbrn-child-escape-respirator-papr

      Screenshot from 2022-05-04 12-26-50

      $550 as of May 4, 2022, they are backordered for the next 4 weeks. A battery powered blower works with a CBRN filter to provide air for children from 2 years old up to small teens. 

      • 2

        I got one used on Ebay for about $100 at a consignment shop 18 months ago. The Israeli tech is solid, and the hood is secure. They take the same Cr123A batteries that are commonly used in tactical flashlights. I bought a CBRN filter for about $50 as well at the time. This is a solid setup, but beware of the price. Israel has handed these out to civilians during flare-up engagements in the past. Sad that we have to think about this for our kids. 

      • 2

        Lawd forbid it, but I’m pretty confident a high-rise smoke mask/escape hood and some ducttape would be OK enough for the first 10-30 minutes. That’s by no way me advocating for a unit to be used outside of it’s proper design, but more me conjecturing on what *might* work in a WCS.