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Recently, I was looking for an affordable safety welding respirator for welding fumes. Many people say it is better to avoid the dangers of toxic welding fumes rather than becoming ill in the long run.
And I agree.
But, choosing the right welding respirator for the job is not easy. Many respirators are advertised to protect you when welding. But of course, the type of protection depends on the quality of the respirator.
Thus, I did a huge recherche on the internet about welding respirators and the dangers of welding fumes. And I share all of my results right here.
To show you the minimum and maximum possible options of protective gear: You could either choose a simple dust mask or you use a self-contained breathing apparatus.
Of course, a dust mask is much cheaper than a breathing apparatus. But is it also sufficient for your weld job?
Let’s make a deep dive into the details:
First of all, this article contains a list of top welding respirators for welding gases.
Second, there is a summary of the types of welding respirators.
Additionally, I will give you information about the toxicity and composition of welding fumes and gases.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Welding respirators
Jackson Safety Airmax Elite PAPR with BH3 air headpiece
Jackson is a well-known brand for premium welding equipment. Protect your health from toxic fumes with this set including the Jackson Safety Airmax Elite PAPR and the BH3 air headpiece.
This welding respirator is specifically designed for professional use.
The Airmax Elite auto-darkening welding helmet provides an optical rating of 1/1/1/1, which means it is top rated in visual clarity, angular dependence, optical homogeneity and light scattering.
With the included belt you can mount the Airmax Elite PAPR on your waist. The Jackson PAPR provides a constant airflow from your backside, independent from the filter or battery level. The BH3 welding helmet is also compatible with hard hats.
- Auto-darkening helmet (solar powered)
- Optical rating: 1/1/1/1
- Large ADF viewing area of 3.78″ x 2.7″
- Adjustable shades: 6-8 for grinding and 9-13 via an external knob
- Alarm (audiovisual and vibration) warns you when airflow or battery gets low
Now, please take a short look at the following video below for an in-depth explanation:
Miller Electric LPR-100 ML00895 half mask welding respirator
This affordable package made by the famous company Miller Electric includes the LPR-100 half mask respirator and 2 P100 filters. Miller is known for its high-quality welding equipment like the Miller Millermatic.
According to the supplier, this half-mask is ideal for most welding applications because it protects from the following hazardous fumes:
- Hexavalent Chromium (Stainless Steel)
- Zinc Oxide (Galvanized Steel)
- Iron Oxide
- and Beryllium fumes
3M Speedglas 9100 MP Fresh-Air III Supplied Air System (SAR)
The 3M Speedglas 9100MP is a hardhat respirator system that supplies you with fresh air.
On the downside, this package does not come with an ADF filter but features the V-100SR cool-air valve with Schrader fitting.
Overall, the 3M 9100 MP welding helmet is ideal for welders working in hot environments, because the belt-mounted valve makes it possible to lower the temperature of the supplied air up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, the integrated flip-up functionality lets you flip up the helmet to do your preparation works.
According to 3M, this device meets ANSI Z87.1-2010 safety standards.
Please take a short glance at the 3M promo video below, to get a deeper understanding of the functionality:
3M Powerflow 6900PF: face-mounted powered air purifying respirator (PAPR)
The 3M 6900PF Powerflow PAPR gives the wearer an OSHA APF rating up to 1000 when used correctly according to supplier specification.
Typical applications this device is being used for include abatement, smelting, lead reclamation and other hazardous environments.
Overall, this package includes the full facepiece, the power-flow motor, the battery pack with charger, HEPA filter, and the 520-01-21 Powerflow airflow indicator.
I’d also like to mention, that one battery charge will last up to 8 hours of use.
3M half facepiece – reusable respirator 6100
The 3M 6100 welding respirator is compact and lightweight. In combination with an additional 3M 2097 or 3M 2297 filter cartridge (not included in the 6100 package), the 3M 6100 is well suited for welding applications.
Of course, the 3M 2097 and the 2297 both have a P100 rating (see more about the ratings below). But the 2297 has enhanced durability and allows more comfortable breathing.
Because of the more advanced filtering technology, the 2297 filter is also a little bit more expensive.
Please take a look at the following review video to learn more about 3M half facepieces with reusable respirators.
Different types of respiratory masks
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration article here, you can categorize masks according to the following classes. Items in the list below are arranged with increasing protection factor (PF).
- Single strap dust mask
- Approved filtering facepieces (dust masks)
- Half-face respirators
- Full-face respirators
- Loose-fitting powered air respirators (PAPR)
- Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
In the following section we will go into details and describe the differences between the protection mask types:
Single strap dust mask
This simple protection is typically not approved for work safety
Approved filtering facepieces
Filtering facepieces are typically used for dust, mists or welding fumes. A filtering facepiece does protect against particles but does not protect from gases and vapors.
In detail, the half-mask respirator is a tight-fitting respirator that covers the space from your nose down to the chin and needs to sit tight to work correctly.
A half-mask respirator can protect against welding fumes, gases and vapors. When choosing the half-mask respirator it must match the hazardous process.
Half-mask respirators usually give you an assigned protection factor (APF) of 10.
In addition to the half-mask, full-face respirators also cover eyes and other skin of your face to protect against toxic fumes and gases.
Powered Air Purifying Respirator
A Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) is an air-purifying respirator that uses a blower to force ambient air through an air-purifying element and a hose to the users’ hood or helmet. [Source]
Usually, a sealed hose connects the waist-mounted blower with the welding helmet and provides fresh air to the welder.
Depending on the helmet type, a PAPR combined with a welding helmet gives you an APF rating of 25 up to 1000. PAPRs sometimes include HEPA filters that filter out 99,97 % of 0,3 µm sized particles and larger.
A Supplied-Air Respirator (SAR) is a special type of PAPR respirator that supplies the wearer with uncontaminated clean air, starting at an APF rating of 25.
Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) provides you with further information about which respirator to choose for your work environment.back to menu ↑
Types of Filter
As you know, weld fume consists of solid particles. These are filtered with particulate filters.
Particulate filters are classified regarding their oil mist resistance with a letter N, R or P as follows:
- N: Not resistant to oil
- R: Resistant to oil
- P: Oil proof
Moreover, filters are classified based on their filtering efficiency 95, 99 and 100% (100=HEPA quality) which were measured in laboratory tests. 95% filtering efficiency means that 95% of particles greater than 0.3 microns will be filtered.
Please take a look at the following table for decoding filter efficiency (leakage) and oil mist resistance.
Example: P100 means Oil proof, filtering 99,97% of particles greater than 0.3 microns.
You must not use N-series filters when oil particles are present. But, you can use R and P filters when there is no oil present. According to the company 3M, “N95 class filters are recommended for most welding applications because welding fume is relatively easy to filter and oil mist is seldom a factor.” (Source)
When Lead, Cadmium, Beryllium or similar contaminants are present, OSHA regulations require the use of class 100 filters.
If you work in an environment with oil mist, you should consider R or P filters.
Particulate filters become soiled and clogged. Please keep in mind, particle filters must be replaced periodically and when they are damaged or difficult to breathe through.
See also a guide on selecting the right 3M filter here.
Moldex also provides a Chemical Selection Guide here.
This is only a compact guide, always ask a professional before selecting your filter.
Gas and vapor cartridgesLet me say it clearly, vapors and gases will not be removed by particulate filters. Gases and vapors can only be removed through chemical reaction with an activated carbon filter. Depending on the type of vapor, different cartridges are required. Typical cartridges are color-labeled as following:
- Organic Vapor (black label)
- Acid gas (white label)
- Organic Vapor + Acid gas (yellow label)
Vapor cartridges do not become clogged, so once the cartridge is saturated, contaminants will flow through. Because of that, it is important to service your cartridges regularly based on your cartridge lifetime calculation.back to menu ↑
Why should you consider a welding respirator for welding fumes?
Nowadays, every metalworker should know that welding fumes are harmful.
A significant amount of the particles are fine and ultra-fine particles.Fine particles are deposited in your lung and hinder the gas exchange from air into the blood. Furthermore, the ultra-fine particles are even able to enter the bloodstream through cell membranes.
Moreover, according to this article on EHSToday.com, a welder was awarded $20.5 million in a lawsuit. He received the payment because he got ill from toxic weld fumes.
On the other side, of course, the more dangerous a job is, the higher your salary can be. Even though, you should be aware of the dangers and protect yourself with good safety equipment.
Effective welding respirator masks protect welders from those harmful welding fumes.back to menu ↑
What welding fumes and gases are there?
Welding fume is a complex mixture of small particles, mostly metals. Besides that, vapor and gases are omnipresent.
Unlike the welding fume, gases and vapors cannot be removed by particle filters. Thus, gases and vapors must be removed by adsorption in activated carbon cartridges.
In detail, the physical and chemical processes in the welding arc such as evaporation, condensation, oxidation, pyrolysis or decomposition occur and produce those substances.
Furthermore, the image below shows a selection of chemicals a welder can breathe in during welding.
Besides fluorides, silicates, paint, rust inhibitor, solvents, coatings, ozone, oil vapor, additional metallic particles like Chromium, Thorium, Lead and Nickel can get into your lung and cause serious health problems.
Moreover, you need to make sure to clean the welding surface of any coating like paint or solvent that could potentially create toxic fumes. [Source: OSHA Fact Sheet]back to menu ↑
It is a fact, that welding fumes are harmful.
When you carefully read this article, you surely agree that it is better to avoid the dangers of toxic welding fumes rather than becoming ill in the long run.
Damage to your nervous system and lung cancer are serious health problems you have to consider when welding.
Highly depending on your weld job and the toxicity of the material you weld, I’d recommend you to buy at least a half mask with an integrated filter. The Miller LPR-100 shown above does a good job here.
For a premium respirator solution, I’d recommend you to take a look at the Jackson Safety Airmax Elite PAPR. Although quite expensive, it includes additional auto-darkening features which makes it very comfortable to work with.
If you already own a respirator, I’d be happy if you share your experience in a comment below!