Did you know that wearing a gas mask can be comfortable?
For those with limited lung capacity, using a PAPR can make it possible to safely and comfortably wear a full-face respirator. Children’s lungs are much smaller than adults, so a PAPR makes mask wearing a lot easier. The risk of insufficient air reaching their lungs is virtually eliminated.
Some PAPR’s can be used with any standard NATO 40 mm threaded gas masks for powered air flow rather than relying on lung power. That means better airflow overall. A PAPR creates a positive pressure environment so your gas mask has a better seal and better overall performance.
Other styles of PAPR require the use of a hood.
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How does a PAPR work?
Full-face respirators typically have1−2 filters that are screwed on the front. The weight of the filter(s) can make it awkward to wear the mask while performing tasks.
With a PAPR, the filters are worn on your back, and a tube attaches to the front of your mask. The PAPR’s battery-powered fans provide 90 liters per minute of airflow, making it a lot more comfortable to perform tasks, especially those that require a high level of physical activity.
The additional airflow makes your gas mask a positive pressure mask. The resulting additional layer of protection around the edges of your mask helps keep dangerous substances out while you breathe easy.
PAPR systems are used in laboratories. A PAPR hood protects the user and provides airflow without a tight-fitting mask. Labs that work with viruses, for example, use PAPR hoods regularly.
Some PAPR’s are only available directly from the manufacturer or a supplier that sells to major medical centers.
These PAPR units are made to order. They’re typically used in the medical industry. Prices are only available by contacting the manufacturer directly. Expect to pay a lot. Lead time may be longer since they’re made to order. Medical PAPR units also use proprietary parts that aren’t interchangeable.
Beware of extremely cheap units on Amazon and eBay
You can find powered respirator systems for as little as $160. I wouldn’t trust anything in that price range to hold up over time.
If you’re serious about respiratory protection, buy a real PAPR and expect to pay at least $400 just for the PAPR unit. Your mask will cost extra.
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Top PAPR Units
- Compatible with all NATO 40 mm threaded filters
- Very affordable
- Exceptional quality
- Uses standard AA batteries
- Operates up to 12 hours on 8 AA batteries
- Slim profile means it can be used in tight spaces
- Does not provide airflow above 90 l/minute. Although this is plenty of airflow, some PAPR units that are used with hoods provide much higher airflow rates.
MIRA’s MD-90 works beautifully with all of MIRA’s gas masks and filters. The MIRA PAPR is extremely lightweight at just 1.8 pounds without filters. Comparable PAPRs can weigh three times that.
The MD-90 is modeled on the PAPR units used by the Israeli military but with major improvements. For example, instead of using expensive and somewhat hard to find specialized batteries, the MD-90 can run on the standard AA batteries you probably already have. You can even use rechargeable batteries.
The MIRA MD-90 is a major mask upgrade. Instead of wearing the filters on your face, they’re on the PAPR unit that attaches to your belt. The strong airflow makes it a lot easier to perform tasks.
The MD-90 comes with a belt and body rig to securely attach the unit to your body, so you’re ready to take on whatever tasks the situation throws at you.
Satisfied MD-90 users have reported that the unit also prevents their mask from fogging up. Anyone this has happened to knows how important it is to prevent.
All PAPRs have a listed shelf life. The MD-90 has an impressive 10-year shelf life. Other PAPRs have a shelf life as short as 3 years.
For those with MOLLE plate carriers, backpacks, or other gear, MIRA makes a pouch for the PAPR that allows it to be mounted on such gear. This helps with comfort and weight distribution.
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- Highly renowned brand
- Made with the best materials
- Adjustable flow rate of 170−210 l/minute
- Long-life battery
- Can be used by those with glasses or facial hair without affecting protection or comfort
- Pre-filters and odor filters are available for increased comfort
- Filters not included
- Uses special batteries
- The Dräger is a highly regarded PAPR with a price tag to match. At around $1,700, it's quite an investment.
- The lithium-ion battery lasts up to 16 hours at 190 l/minute air flow.
This PAPR does not come with filters. They must be purchased separately, and they are not cheap. The filter set for VOCs costs around $114 at the time of writing.
One advantage of a PAPR hood is that it’s more comfortable for those who wear glasses since there’s no face piece to rest on the wearer’s nose or face. A PAPR hood offers those with facial hair the highest level of protection when combined with the appropriate filter.
- User interface alerts you when the battery is low or the filter needs to be changed.
- Storage and cleaning kit allows the blower and battery to be fully submerged for easier and more thorough cleaning.
- Can be customized for fit and comfort. A lot of 3M headgear, filters, and tubes are interchangeable.
- Durable face shield offers great protection from sparks and debris.
- Proprietary filter type
- Weight. This PAPR weighs 12.9 lbs!
3M is a well-known brand when it comes to safety gear. This PAPR kit is designed for industrial use. You cannot use the commonly available NATO 40 mm threaded filters. That means you can only filter particulates, vapors, and gas. There’s no option for radioactive particles.
I think this PAPR would be hard to wear all day because of its weight. This would be especially true if you’re also wearing other gear or thick clothing or if you have to lift a lot of weight throughout the day. If you have to run for a significant distance, the weight might be a bit cumbersome.
The 600 runs on a lithium-ion battery pack. You can expect 5.5−13 hours of use per charge, depending on the size of battery you choose.
The 600 has an adjustable air flow rate, but I could not find information about the specific flow rates.
- NATO 40 mm threading accepts many filter brands, including MIRA's broad selection of filters.
- 180−300 l/m adjustable airflow
- Lithium-ion battery pack takes 3−4 hours to charge.
- Only 5−8 hours of run time per battery pack
- Comes with particulate filters. Other filters must be purchased separately.
- Battery cannot be replaced
The Tristan is one of the few affordable yet feature-filled PAPR units I found. For around $500, you get the whole system, including two particulate filters. The Tristan comes with a heavy-duty storage box with an easy carry handle.
What really sets this PAPR apart from industrial PAPRs is that it can take standard gas mask cartridges. That means you can use the same cartridges as your Israeli gas mask or buy MIRA cartridges.
The battery part is a bit of a problem. Although the unit has a built-in lithium-ion battery, its shelf life is a mere 9 months.
I’m not familiar with this company and very few reviews are available.
Masks for Use with Your PAPR
This is one of MIRA’s best-selling masks, and there are a lot of good reasons for that. First, it offers the highest level of CBRN protection when combined with the MIRA NB-77 filter. You have the option of using any NATO 40 mm threaded filter with it.
Remember that you cannot get a good seal on a gas mask if you attempt to wear your regular glasses. If you need prescription lenses for daily tasks, MIRA offers the MIRAVISION Spectacle Kit for CM-6M and CM-7M Gas Masks.
Israeli Military Surplus Masks
Many people have Israeli style gas masks that only take a single filter. If you use an Israeli mask as the face piece for your PAPR unit, you can use two filters plus enjoy the benefits of increased airflow. If you have an Israeli mask, you should consider adding a PAPR unit. The difference in comfort and airflow is incredible, and if you have two filters, you don’t have to worry about your filter clogging as quickly. TheMIRA MD-90 is an affordable choice for those who want to make a major improvement in their gas mask setup without replacing their mask entirely.
Some respirator face pieces and masks are not suitable for CBRN protection.
If a face piece is made with silicone rather than rubber, it cannot protect against blister agents. These face pieces are fine to use with a PAPR if CBRN protection is not your goal. Anything called a gas mask is probably made of the correct material. But with so many generic components out there and companies not always properly describing mass-produced generic pieces, it pays to double-check descriptions when buying from an unfamiliar company.
Wearing Your PAPR Correctly
If your PAPR is connected to a PAPR hood, you don’t have to worry as much about getting a precise fit. However, if you use a gas mask–style respirator with your PAPR, you need to make sure the mask fits well. Some masks are highly adjustable, but others come in specific sizes.
Hair should be pulled back, so it doesn’t get trapped in the seal of your mask. Even a small amount of hair caught in the outer edges of a mask can result in an improper seal and reduced protection.
Hoods can be worn with moderate facial hair, but gas masks and other respirators cannot seal out particles and contaminants if there is a lot of facial hair under the edges of the mask.
When you get your PAPR, take the time to familiarize yourself with it. Practice taking it off and on. You should also spend a little time wearing it, so you know what to expect if an emergency happens and you have to wear it for an extended period. Being familiar with your gear before disaster strikes can significantly increase your chances of survival.
PAPR Maintenance Tips
- Recharge your battery occasionally, even if you don’t use your PAPR.
- Follow the cleaning instructions precisely, so you can avoid damaging your PAPR.
- Periodically check for cracks on the face piece and hoses.
- Change filters regularly. Many PAPRs have an alarm that lets you know when a filter is clogged. Never ignore it.
- If your PAPR came with a storage case, use it whenever your PAPR is not in use.
- Never trust a PAPR that has any significant visible damage.
A PAPR allows you to wear your filters on your belt, keeping weight off your face. It creates a positive pressure environment so your mask seals better. The battery-powered air flow makes it easier to breathe, especially when doing strenuous activities.
Yes. In fact, a PAPR makes it possible for people who normally can't to wear a full-face respirator. Children and older adults with smaller lung capacities can breathe easy wearing a PAPR. Some PAPRs, like the MIRA MD-90 are extremely lightweight, so they're not cumbersome for those who can't carry a lot of weight.
When a PAPR is used with the right filter and face piece/gas mask, they provide outstanding protection from viruses, including COVID-19. The positive pressure environment created by the constant airflow ensures that masks have the best seal possible from all particles.
Many people find a PAPR system a lot more comfortable than a traditional gas mask because they don't have the weight of the filters on their face. The increased air flow makes it easier to breathe.
If a PAPR is combined with a PAPR hood, even those with moderate to heavy facial hair can get excellent protection from threats. When used with a regular gas mask, the rule about keeping facial hair trimmed so it doesn't interfere with the mask seal is still important.
A PAPR system can make your respirator wearing experience a lot nicer and increase your stamina when performing strenuous tasks. MIRA’s PAPR makes it easy to upgrade your gas mask without spending over $1,000.
With any PAPR, it’s important to have the right filters for the threat you’re facing. For cost effectiveness, you should have an assortment of filters for different threats. It’s a lot cheaper to filter out dust and debris than radioactivity, for example.
PAPRs allow those with low lung capacities to wear a mask that offers the highest level of protection. In some cases, it’s the difference between protection or no mask at all!