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The best breathing mask for smoke and dust

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The robust and comfortable 3M 6502QL / 49489 Half Face Reusable Respirator is our favorite reusable breathing mask. It offers a tighter but more comfortable fit than any disposables we have tested, making it a better option for long-term use.

Facial respirators like this model are typically used by industrial or agricultural workers, but are also practical for people who are faced with poor air quality on a regular basis, as well as for people who take life seriously. emergency preparedness. The Rugged Comfort Quick Latch is easier to breathe than other reusable models we have tested, and its soft silicone seal is less likely to irritate the skin. Its straps are also easier to adjust when adjusting the fit and overall it’s more comfortable to wear and more structurally sound.

This is the mid-size version of the 6500 series respirator. We found that it fits a wide range of faces and physicists – our testers ranged from 5′3 “to 6′1” – but you might want to consider the 6501QL ( small) if you are far below 5′3 “and slightly built, and you may find the (large) 6503QL slightly more comfortable if you are taller than 6 ′ or if you have a large head. We hope 3M will offer more detailed sizing guidance.

You need to purchase the filters for the mask separately; 3M 2097 filters are of the P100 type which capture virtually all airborne particles, including smoke, and protect against petrochemical fumes and some caustic vapors.

The Rugged Comfort Quick Latch has a crown-like adjustable harness (the 3M 7502 was the only other model we’ve seen that had this feature) and a unique ‘quick-lock’ mechanism that allows you to drop the mask from the face without removing the head straps. (You should only remove the mask when you are safely away from a contaminated area.)

The “quick close” mechanism in action. Video: Sarah Kobos

Testers liked that the silicone facepiece didn’t smell bad, while those on Honeywell’s 770030L and 550030M models did. The downward-facing exhalation valve of the Rugged Comfort Quick Latch also prevents fogging of the glasses.

As with all reusable respirators, filters must be purchased separately. For the medium 6502QL, the smallest 6501QL and the largest 6503QL, this means any filter made by 3M listed as “bayonet” and / or any 6000 or 2000, 2200, 7000 or 5000 series pancake style filter cartridge of the series.

Filters rated P100 are the most widely available type that meets this criterion. The “100” designation means they capture 99.97% of fine particles, such as smoke from fires. And as P-designated filters, they also protect against oil-based substances in the air, such as paint vapors, as well as some caustic vapors. NIOSH approval means that, at the equivalent rating (P100 in this case), pancake-style filters, like the 3M 2097 filter we recommend, protect you just as effectively as hard plastic cartridge filters like the 3M 60926. Pancake filters they weigh only half an ounce per pair, and are our first recommendation for typical outdoor and indoor use. The cartridges are more expensive and weigh a lot more, 8.6 ounces per pair on our scale, but they are also more robust and may be the best choice if you will be doing strenuous physical work, such as demolishing a kitchen, while wearing your own. respirator. 3M recommends replacing both pancake filters and cartridge filters within six months of opening their packages (PDF)or, in environments where oil aerosols are present, after only 40 hours of total use or 30 days after first use, whichever comes first.

Defects but not puzzles

3M’s lack of sizing guidance on its reusable respirators makes it difficult to determine which size you should get prior to ordering. We have offered the general guidance we can based on our tests on 10 people of various sizes, but it would be much easier to refer to a size chart. Some retailers offer detailed guides on respirator sizing, which helps, but we’d love to see something like that from the manufacturer. (Note to 3M: If such a chart exists, make it a little easier to find online.) According to retailer Enviro Safety Products, 80% of adults should fit in a medium. This more or less follows our observations and, anecdotally, we’ve found that very few people switch to the small size – that version should fit 5% of adults, according to Enviro Safety.

No respirator will work if you have a full beard – the silicone seal must be on your bare skin. The CDC has guidelines regarding facial hair styles which can work with respirators as well as a comparative table of types of respirators, including those with P100 filters.

We said filters are sold separately and last up to six months once opened, so you’re facing ongoing cost at best (and worst-case, expired filters in the middle of an emergency). And we need to reiterate the weight concern involving hard plastic cartridge filters like the 3M 60926 – a full 8.6 oz of filter hanging from your face is a significant additional weight, so keep that in mind.

Finally, one tester noted that this model worked with glasses, but pushed them “a little” upwards. That minor criticism wasn’t unique to this half-face respirator mask, though.

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