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You’ve installed a dust collection system that takes care of large dust particles and shavings, and you’ve augmented that with an air-filtration system to continually purify the air in your shop. Do you still need personal respiratory protection? Many experts say yes.
One reason is that the level of safe exposure to woodworking dust is quite low. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that the average amount of fine dust in wood shop air be no more than 1mg/cubic meter over a 10-hour shop session. For a garage-sized shop, 1 mg/cubic meter amounts to less than 1/8 teaspoon of dust for the entire volume of air in the shop!
Another reason is that many common woodworking operations such as sanding, cutting with a chop saw or using a router can overwhelm all of your dust collection measures and leave you breathing dangerous levels of fine wood dust.
Disposable dust masks are among the most economical and convenient forms of personal respiratory protection. They’re best suited for short-term exposure to fine dust and less effective and comfortable in long sessions in a dusty shop. This is because they’re made to fit the contours of an “average” face and, in general, don’t provide as tight an air seal between your face and the mask, which is what prevents fine dust particles from getting around the mask’s filter material and passing directly into the lungs.
Not all dust masks are created
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