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The 3M Company, well-known by consumers and professionals alike, offers excellent choices in particulate and chemical respirators. An added feature of 3M respirators can be very valuable to those new to the use of these items or those unsure of the correct unit for their situation. 3M offers free respirator selection software (you run it on the Internet) that can analyze over 700 chemicals and guide you to picking the best respirator for your situation. They also give you access to a 55-page respirator selection guide you can download (in PDF format) from the web to further educate potential users.
The 3M N95 respirator is one of, if not the most widely used dust mask. A 3M particulate respirator, like the N95 version, protects against many common airborne irritants (dust, pollen, sweeping, grinding, sawing, etc.) and some liquid (non oil-based) produced by sprays. This 3M respirator mask eliminates at least 95% (hence the numerical designation) of airborne particulates in the categories covered by its design. This low cost protection should NOT be used if you face gases, fumes, oil-based aerosols, asbestos, etc. as they are not designed for this level of protection.
3M does offer a full line of air purifying and air (atmosphere) supplied half and full face respirators to eliminate many, often more dangerous airborne particulates. In addition, they have recently replaced metal cartridges with plastic ones to eliminate some weight from their respirators and give you a higher level of comfort.
3M is not alone in the respirator and there are other companies offering effective OSHA respirators. For instance, the AO Safety respirator line is highly respected in the industry. From an excellent line of N95 respirator masks to homeland security approved “escape hoods” with their own self-powered fan to recirculate clean oxygen, AO is another excellent choice for protection against airborne threats.