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Clearing the Air About Respiratory Protection

By 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. Examples of respiratory hazards include combustion byproducts; toxic fumes or dust created by metal melting; ozone and nitrogen oxides from processes involving an electric discharge in air; and dust particles released by grinding (notably dry grinding such as blasting) and crushing applications, and the transport, sieving, mixing or screening of any dry material. 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…
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