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What is a Respirator?

A Respirator is a device that is designed to protect the user from inhalation of potentially harmful contaminants, such as dusts, fumes, mists, or gases. There is a wide range of respirator types and sizes used for various purposes, but  two main categories are: the Air-Purifying Respirator (APR), which forces contaminated air through a filtering component, and the Air-Supplied Respirator (ASR), in which an alternate supply of fresh air is delivered to the user.

Air‑purifying respirators may be further divided into two major classes‑‑particulate removing (like N-95), and vapor and gas removing (like half-face and full-face).  In the former case, the removal process depends primarily on the size of the particulate, regardless of the composition.  In the latter case, the vapor or gas is adsorbed onto an activated charcoal media or chemical, which may be selective in the material adsorbed.

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 N-95 Respirators (APR)
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Half-face Respirator (APR)                      Full-face Respirator (APR)

Air-supplied respirators depend on air or oxygen supplied from an external source.  The air or oxygen is delivered to the user, protecting them from the inhalation of contaminants in the surrounding environment.

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Air supplying Respirator                      Oxygen-supplying Respirator

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established specific requirements to wear a respirator at work to ensure that the use of a respirator is necessary and the respirator selected is appropriate for the anticipated hazards. You must contact EH&S at occusafety@columbia.edu before using any type of respirator.