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New Design Innovations in Disposable Respirators

Photo shows a respiratory mask being worn when using chemicalsRespiratory innovation is happening but in baby steps. Personal protective equipment is traditionally a low innovation area, but new advances in technology in the area of materials, fabrics and overall design have dramatically improved worker protection and user comfort. Disposable respirators have come a long way, and manufacturers are always working on improving function, fit and wearability in an effort to protect workers and encourage compliance with federal laws.

Here are some of the new design innovations we’re seeing in disposable respirators:

Improved Filtration Design

The general trend we’re seeing in respiratory filtration technology is the desire for improved performance and efficiency from particulate removal, combined with lower resistance capabilities to air flow. For instance, Dura-Mesh shells are being used by companies like Moldex-Metric to help provide protection from particulates like dirt on the outside and moisture on the inside.

Dura-Mesh shells not only prevent collapsing from heat and humidity, but also help keep the respirator clean looking while also protecting the filter on both sides. New innovations like Dura-Mesh shells are helping respiratory manufacturers balance the need for more efficient particulate removal with as little resistance as possible in respirators.

Pinch-Free Contour-Molded Design

Disposable respirators have always retained a simple design, consisting mostly of a nonwoven fiber cup, an easily adjustable metal nose clip and strap for securing the mask to the wearer’s face. However, the need for more comfortable, government-approved disposable respirators that workers can wear all day and enjoy reliable protection has resulted in better design.

Today, new innovations like the pinch-free contour-molded nose bridge design provide unmatched comfort for the wearer and eliminate the constant adjustment that’s needed with metal nosebands. Soft foam nose cushion with breathable material also ensures maximum comfort. Manufacturers are leaning more towards collapse-resistant respirator design.   

Face and Head Comfort

For workers who are required to wear disposable respirators, comfort is always a major issue when it comes to selecting respirators. The 4700N100 AirWave disposable respirator provides excellent face and head comfort that is critical to ensuring compliance with safety procedures. With new design technology like the use of Ventex valves, FlexFit design and hangable and adjustable strap designs, the AirWave respirator ensures that wearers are able to wear their respirators for longer periods without experiencing discomfort.

Unlike years back, disposable respirators are now available in a wide range of face shapes and sizes to accommodate facial movements. The improved fit design also ensures that the respirators stay in place, helping to provide a reliable, comfortable seal. A smoother, inner cover web feels incredibly soft of the wearer’s skin, helping create a comfortable environment for the face.

Ensuring the Perfect Fit

There are two types of face fit testing: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative testing is ideal for reusable and disposable half masks, in which a scented liquid is sprayed near the wearer while the wearer conducts physical tasks to simulate the workplace environment. If the wearer is able to detect the spray by smell or by taste, the mask does not fit properly. The test is repeated until the wearer cannot detect the smell of the spray, indicating a true fit.

Quantitative testing involves the aid of a TSI Portacount machine, which detects microscopic particles inside the mask and compares this number with the particles outside of the mask. Like the qualitative test, the wearer simply simulates physical activities they might be conducting in a workplace environment. This test doesn’t depend on the subjectivity of the taste and smell of the wearer, and can be used to test the fit of all types of masks.

Photo shows an example of a protective mask

Increasing Compliance

There is no doubt that increasing compliance requirements by agencies like the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will continue driving new design innovations to improve wearer comfort and low breathing resistance filter technology. While the improvements being made may seem small, experts agree that design changes and technology do have an impact on the effectiveness of the disposable respirators.

With compliance standards requiring manufacturers to provide disposable respirators that offer better breathing ease, user convenience, overall comfort and better particulate filtration, we can expect to see a complete range of respirators that offer higher performance, better sizing options and variants to cover a wider range of applications.

Author Bio:

Alfonso Gonzalez is a freelance writer based in Malibu, California. He spent 25 years in the construction industry, working roofing, plumbing, electrical, and more before retiring. In his free time, he likes to work on home repair projects.

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