Are Atmosphere Supplying Respirators and Normal Respirators Any Different?
Is there any difference between Atmosphere Supplying Respirators and Normal Respirators?
The COVID-19 pandemic made everyone aware of the respirators. These respirators were once used by people fighting pollution or meds fighting infections in their clinics. It was during the pandemic that the masses started wearing them. The article focuses on the differences between two major types of respirators, namely atmosphere supplying respirators and normal respirators.
What are respirators? What are the different respirator types?
Respirators are a type of respiratory protection PPE that is donned over the mouth and nose to restrict the entry of pathogens, fumes, and other harmful stuff. The respirators are classified based on whether the respirator can provide a source of breathable air or not. The two types are Atmosphere Supplying Respirators and normal respirators. They can either be either air-purifying ones or supplied air ones. Supplied Air Respirators or SARs are atmosphere supplying respirators that provide clean air from a source via a tube or hose. Air purifying respirators or APRs are a type of normal respirator that provides clean air by filtering out the contaminated stuff from the air. It can be dust, dirt, pathogens, or even fumes.
What are Atmosphere Supplying Respirators (ASRs)?
ASRs are atmosphere supplying respirators specially designed to help provision of breathable air. The supply of breathable air is from an uncontaminated source. These respirators are widely used when there is contaminated air in the surroundings and when the environment is highly unsuitable for working. Atmosphere supplying respirators are used during work in places with low oxygen levels and high content of hazardous gases. ASRs are donned by personnel working in confined spaces too. They come equipped with an external source that helps in procuring breathable air. ASRs can be equipped with either an external air compressor or a breathing apparatus. The ones with breathing apparatus are called self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA. The different types of ASRs are as follows,
Supplied-Air Respirators (SARs):
These respirators are connected to an external air compressor, usually at a high pressure, which provides a clean air source. They are connected to an air compressor with the help of a hose or tube. They are widely used during confined space entries and places with low oxygen levels.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs):
These respirators have a breathing apparatus that allows the SCBA to be portable and provide an uncontaminated air supply for a stipulated period only, which depends upon the wearer’s breathing rate. They are widely used for escapes, emergencies, and rescue operations. There are two types of SCBAs, namely open-circuit and closed-circuit. Check out the article on types of SCBAs for more information.
What are normal respirators? How are they different from ASRs?
Normal respirators discussed in this article are air-purifying respirators. These are different from atmosphere supplying respirators because they don’t supply clean air from an external source, instead just use filters to purify the air. They are not suitable for confined spaces or places with low oxygen levels where ASRs are widely used. N95 or KN95 respirators, surgical masks, and even cloth masks are considered normal respirators.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, air-purifying respirators were widely used to protect against the coronavirus. They are also used in industries and places with high pollution to protect from dust, dirt, particulate matter, fumes, and other hazardous particles. APRs or air-purifying respirators may also use filter cartridges that can be either full-face or half-face respirators. Normal respirators are classified as follows,
N95 and KN95 respirators -
These respirators help in filtering out at least 95% of particles which may include pathogens, dirt, and dust. They help in reducing exposure to hazardous particles.
For more information, check our article on the difference between N95 and KN95 respirators.
Surgical masks -
They are worn to protect from liquid droplets and splashes. They are comfortable due to their loose fitting and help in reducing exposure to bodily fluids. They don’t protect against dust, dirt, and pathogens.
Cloth masks -
Cloth masks are a makeshift arrangement to provide a basic level of protection against hazardous particles. There are many factors like fabric type, number of fabric layers, and fitting of the mask that affects their efficiency.
What are the differences between ASRs and Normal Respirators?
Hazard type -
Atmosphere supplying respirators are used in an environment with a lack of oxygen or high contamination of other hazardous gases or vapors. Normal respirators are widely used for protection against dirt, dust, and pathogens. At the industrial level, work involving confined space entry requires the use of ASRs. The industries are usually mining, metallurgy, chemical manufacturing, and refineries. SCBAs and ELBAs or ELSAs are used in rescue and emergencies. Normal respirators are still widely used by the masses to protect themselves from pollution and dust. Industries like construction and healthcare widely use normal respirators.
Type of Protection -
ASRs have a greater degree of respiratory protection as they supply uncontaminated air. The air source is external and hence is free from any contaminants present in the surrounding environment of the wearer. Normal respirators contain APRs, which at their best can make air free from contaminants but they remain unsuitable for places with low oxygen levels.
Training required for respirators -
ASRs can be bulky and complicated. The wearer requires to undergo proper special training to ensure that the respirators are donned, doffed, used, and maintained properly. While the wearer of normal respirators need not worry as they don’t require any special training. They are simple to don, doff, use, and maintain.
Due to the requirement of various complex equipment like air compressors or breathing apparatus, tanks, hoses, and other stuff, atmosphere supplying respirators are difficult to manufacture and assemble. Hence, ASRs are more expensive than normal respirators.
ASRs require frequent maintenance and inspection routines owing to their different parts, complexity, and uncontaminated air supply. While the maximum maintenance, the normal respirators require is the replacement of the cartridge filter and cleaning.
If you want to know more, check out our article on respirator cleaning.
The main difference between atmosphere supplying respirators and normal respirators is the former provides breathable air from an external source. The difference is based on various factors like cost, maintenance, required training for their use, hazard type, and type of protection. Hence, choosing the type of respirator depends on these factors too. While ASRs include SARs and SCBAs that help in the provision of uncontaminated air. Normal respirators include APRs such as N95 and KN95 respirators and surgical and cloth masks.