There are many choices when it comes to respirators. Those who are exposed to high levels of volatile organic compounds, dust, toxins, etc. use a full-face respirator. Full-face respirators are always used in a nuclear incident. The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of interest in full-face respirators, resulting in overwhelming demand. There is a lot of misinformation out there about what full face respirators can actually filter out.
You should consider the pros and cons of a full-face respirator before deciding whether it’s suitable for your situation or the situation you want to be well prepared for.
In this article I will show you some of the full face respirators out there and what they have to offer.
Pros and Cons of Full Face Respirators
- Offers the highest level of coverage and protection
- Protects your eyes
- Designed for the worst threats, including nuclear and biological warfare
- Usually works with a wide variety of filters
- Not comfortable for those who are even slightly claustrophobic
- Some can’t be worn with glasses
- Fogging can be an issue
- Eating and drinking are difficult unless the mask has a drinking system, like the MIRA line.
- Looks hardcore and tactical: You’ll stand out wearing a full-face respirator.
- It can be difficult to get a good seal if you have any facial hair.
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Are military surplus masks safe?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people felt that a military-style full-face gas mask was a good investment. For years, military surplus dealers have sold these masks at a considerable discount. Although these masks have not been used often, they are older. Many people bought these masks because new masks were sold out, and the lead time to get a new one was substantial.
Military surplus masks come with standard 40 mm cartridges. Some of the more common masks only accept a single cartridge, which doesn’t provide as much airflow as a mask that takes two cartridges. A single filter will get clogged a lot faster than two.
If you buy a surplus full-face respirator, it’s critically important to check the expiration date of the filters that are included. A recently manufactured filter should have a 20-year shelf life, but a surplus filter may have only 3–5 years left before its expiration date. This is a major factor when evaluating whether a surplus mask is a good deal or not.
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Israeli Gas Masks
Many of the surplus masks in the US are Israeli. This style has space for a single 40 mm threaded filter. Most of these masks are designed for civilian protection and have no special features for optics or a drinking system. The upside is that they’re often available at a discount. As noted previously, the filters are often older, so you’ll want to have new filters on hand. This means they it may not be as good of a deal as it seems if you’re looking for a primary full-face respirator.
Mira Safety Full Face Respirators
Mira makes some excellent full face respirators for adults as well as kids and teens. Mira’s innovative accessories make wearing a full face respirator more comfortable than you could ever imagine. Check out the PAPR system for easier breathing or the additional microphone for easier communication with your team.
I own a MIRA CM-6M. It has a lot of advantages over an older gas mask. For starters, it doesn’t limit your field of vision like so many gas masks do.
Plenty of masks have problems with fogging, but the MIRA CM-6M has never given me any trouble. I tested the drinking tube and canteen that come with the mask, and the system is comfortable and easy to use.
If you prefer a full-face respirator that can be used with optics, then the CM-7M is a great option. It has all the features of the CM-6M.
Full face Respirators for Children and Teens
Full-face respirators are available for very young children, including infants. For younger children, protective enclosures are also available. MIRA’s masks come with a drinking system that makes it easier to keep children fed and hydrated.
CM-3M Child Escape Respirator is the most comfortable gas mask you’ll find for very young children. Although it can be worn by infants just a few months old, it’s recommended for ages 2 and up because very young kids could squirm out of it if they’re not constantly monitored by an adult.
The CM-3M Child Escape Respirator features an expandable mask, blower unit, tubing, back/waist carrier, integrated water bottle, and Israeli NBC Filter.
The blower system provides 45 L per minute of airflow, so kids and teens will have an easier time breathing than with a traditional mask. This is important when you consider how much smaller a child’s lung capacity is compared with an adult’s.
You can use different filters with the CM-3M Child Escape Respirator, including MIRA’s P100 filters. A set of 4 CR123 batteries will last through about 8 hours of continuous operation.
Construction, Painting, and Medical Full-face Respirators
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many peoplepurchased full-face respirators intended for use in construction, painting, and some healthcare jobs. These respirators vary widely in quality and performance depending on the brand and filter used.
3M is a major name brand that people know and trust. To prevent the transmission of some infectious diseases and protect your airways from particulates, these masks work well. They tend to provide unobstructed vision even while wearing glasses.
Quality full-face respirators designed for industrial use do not offer a huge cost savings over a military-style gas mask, but they may be more available at times. The type of filter they come with can vary, so always check to see what you’re getting. You may have to buy different filter cartridges right away to meet all of your needs.
CBRN stands for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear.
If an item is identified as CBRN, it is designed to protect against a wide range of harmful agents.
The MIRA line of gas masks take standard NATO 40 mm threaded cartridges. Each mask can take two cartridges. Some full-face respirators, such as the Israeli style, only take one.
The NBC-77 from MIRA filters out all known CBRN agents. The canister filter features standard NATO 40 mm threading, making this filter compatible with a wide range of gas masks. The 20-year shelf life saves you money over time. No replacing filters every 5 years. MIRA filters are extensively tested.
For a complete brochure of performance results, please click here.
CBRN cartridges are not designed to filter out smoke. If you have a gas mask and live in an area prone to wildfires, it’s a good idea to have some smoke and carbon monoxide filters on hand. MIRA’s VK-450 filter has a 13.5-year shelf life. Smoke inhalation is a major cause of injuries and death from fire. With the proper mask, you can stay healthy and prevent injury when living in areas prone to wildfires.
This filter offers economical protection from chemical vapors and nuclear and biological threats. The DotPro’s 7.5-year shelf life is shorter than some other MIRA filters, but the cost savings is significant for those who want a quality filter at a great price. Even if you have the NBC-77 filters we recommend, it makes sense to have some DotPro 320 Filters on hand, especially if you have to supply multiple people or a group.
For those who want to save their filters for major threats, MIRA offers economical P100 filters. These filters are lighter weight and provide great protection against viruses and particulates. At $150 for six filters, they’re more economical than the $80 filters for serious nuclear threats. However, note that you get a substantial discount off that $80 if you purchase a gas mask with the filters.
Off-brand or Surplus Cartridges
The world is a big place. There are a wide variety of filters available worldwide, including surplus cartridges. I advise caution when it comes to purchasing filters that don’t have a lot of reviews or for which little information is available. If you run across military surplus filters, it’s important to check their expiration date and make sure there are no signs they have been used or damaged.
Remember, you’re investing in gear that could save your life and prevent a lot of damage in the event of a disaster. Is it really worth the risk just to save a little bit of money?
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There are over 90 functional nuclear reactors in the United States. These reactors provide a lot of electricity for the US power grid. Many who want green energy and more electric vehicles on the road think that building more nuclear power plants is the best option to meet increased energy demands.
The more we rely on nuclear power, the greater the potential for accidents.
Another major issue is that many of the nuclear power plants currently in operation have passed their designed operational lifetimes. Major repairs and improvements are needed to operate them in what is considered a safe manner. At the moment, many of these issues are being ignored, and plants are still being allowed to operate at the same capacity.
Storage of spent fuel rods is another major concern when it comes to analyzing the potential for a major nuclear accident. Currently, nuclear fuel rods are pulled from reactors after they pass what is considered their useful life and are offloaded into cooling pools, where they are allowed to cool and degrade over time. These pools rely on water being continuously pumped and circulated over the rods. If the pumps fail or the grid goes down, these pools can get very hot. If the water boils off and the rods are exposed, radioactive isotopes can be released.
Since there are nuclear reactors throughout the country, the potential for accidents is widespread. If more reactors are built and put into service, let’s hope a better plan is enacted for storing spent fuel rods until they are no longer hazardous to mankind.
One reason we haven’t had a majornuclear war is that people are well aware of how devastating it would be in the long term. As practically all major powers have nuclear weapons, the threat of mutual destruction if one country decides to press the button is a strong incentive for no one to do it. Like any form of violence, it’s difficult or impossible to stop once it’s started.
However, there is always the possibility of small nuclear devices being used for terrorism. As tensions between nuclear powers rise, the risk that a nuclear power will use a warhead increases.
Over the years, nuclear warheads have not necessarily been maintained, and some may even have been lost. This is rather alarming considering how much damage even a small missile could do in a populated area.
It is possible to have some facial hair and safely wear a full-face respirator. For example, a mustache or even a small goatee might be ok, but a full beard with hair where the respirator seals around your face is not. In industries where full-face respirators are required daily, many employers require men to be clean shaven to minimize the risk of not getting a good seal.
Over time, you can get used to wearing a full-face respirator for extended periods. How comfortable your respirator is depends on several factors. Having the right size respirator, cartridges that are not overly clogged, and a respirator that allows for drinking water can all significantly improve your comfort level.
The frame of your glasses interferes with the seal of your mask so you should never wear them with a full face respirator. Contact lens are a better choice while using a full-face respirator as they won’t interfere with getting a good seal. If you experience any eye irritation, it’s important to flush your eyes with clean water as soon as possible, remove the contacts, and flush your eyes some more. MIRA Safety offers the MIRAVISION Spectacle kit for use with CM-6M and CM-7M full face respirators. This kit is customized with the prescription provided by your eye doctor.
There is no set time that a filter is good for. How long a filter lasts depends on how much it filters. In an environment with a high level of particulates, a filter will become clogged relatively quickly. It’s important to pay attention to how you feel. Letting filters get excessively clogged before changing them can reduce the oxygen you receive. This can be dangerous and cause you to pass out. When running any equipment, it’s especially important to change filters regularly. Oxygen sensors, like those used in medical offices, are inexpensive and can be used to check your oxygen level if in doubt. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people added these devices to their medical kits.
A full-face respirator offers the highest level of protection when used with the appropriate filters for a given situation. The trade-off is that for some, wearing a full-face respirator is harder to deal with than a respirator that leaves a large portion of your face uncovered. A full-face respirator is the only reliable protection from nuclear agents.
Military surplus full-face respirators often come with cartridges that need to be replaced much sooner than if you purchase a new mask and filters from a reputable gas mask dealer like Mira Safety.