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Environmental, Health & Safety :: Plant & Personnel Safety

December 1, 2012

Clearing the Air About Respiratory Protection

Learn the basics about selection and regulatory compliance for these potentially life-saving devices

Dennis Capizzi, MSA Safety

Airborne respiratory hazards are a very real threat in the chemical process industries (CPI). Existing in a variety of forms including gases, vapors, dusts, mists, fumes, smoke, sprays and fog, such hazards can cause illnesses including cancer and lung impairment, or even death. The specific hazardous gases present in a workplace will, of course, vary according to the processes of the facility, but commonly include chlorine, chlorine dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some hazardous gases, such as carbon monoxide, act rapidly and can cause unconsciousness or death within minutes, while other toxic gases can take years to produce noticeable harm.

Where toxic substances are present in the workplace and engineering controls (such as enclosing or confining the contaminant-producing operation, exhausting the contaminant, or substituting with less toxic materials) are inadequate to reduce or eliminate them, it is time to turn to respirators...

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