The p95 respirator or “painting respirator” is recommended for “relief against nuisance levels of organic vapors. Nuisance level organic vapor refers to concentrations not exceeding… exposure limits” . The purpose of this article is to discuss their application in the painting context.
Fitting instructions are similar to those of an N95 and apply a similar fit test: “To check fit, place both hands completely over the respirator and inhale sharply (Fig. 4). Be careful not to disturb the position of the respirator. A negative pressure should be felt inside the respirator. If air leaks around the nose, readjust the nosepiece as described in step 3. If air leaks at the respirator edges, work the straps back along the sides of your head. If you CANNOT achieve a proper fit, DO NOT enter the contaminated area. See your supervisor” . Making sure that the tool is in good condition means doing the following: “Inspect each respirator before each use to ensure that it is in good operating condition. Examine all the respirator parts for signs of damage including the two headbands, attachment points and noseclip. The respirator should be disposed of immediately upon observation of damaged or missing parts. Filtering facepieces are to be inspected prior to each use to assure there are no holes in the breathing zone other than the punctures around staples and no damage has occurred. Enlarged holes resulting from ripped or torn filter material around staple punctures are considered damage. Immediately replace respirator if damaged. Staple perforations do not affect NIOSH approval” .
P95s are recommended for:
Liquid or oil based particles from sprays that do not also emit harmful vapors.
Nuisance level organic vapor relief. (Nuisance level organic vapor refers to concentrations not exceeding OSHA PEL or applicable government occupational exposure limits, whichever is lower) .
P95s are not recommended for:
Do not use for organic vapors, including those present in paint spraying operations, when concentrations exceed the US OSHA PEL or applicable government occupational exposure limits, whichever is lower
In terms of vapor exposure, “wet or drying paint—particularly oil-based paints—tend to emit a lot of VOCs” . Oil-based paints are illegal in Canada, but water-based paints still produce toxic vapors.
Analysis and conclusion
It is better to use a p95 respirator when working with paint than not to use one. All paints emit “harmful vapors,” however exposure to those vapors can be minimized by using this type of respirator. Exposure limits on popular paint brands like ECOS are listed in milligrams (mg) and seem to relate mainly to respirable dust . Thus, tentatively, I’m assuming that exposure to vapors from water-based paints, given that they’re beneath the listed threshold even if a room is full of fumes, is safe. Nonetheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so it’s advisable to wear this mask and try to reduce vapor concentrations whenever possible.