View Full Version : Protect your lungs

01-06-2012, 05:06 PM
As of this writing I have yet to attempt any crafting that would expose me to all kinds of dust particles from the various materials used in scale modeling but I do on occasion still paint with solvent based paints, both in the 1:1 as well as the scale worlds. In the past I also worked as a network cable tech and have some experience using full environmental suits such as the type used for working where asbestos is present.

Some of the chemicals found in the products we use these days are very bad for you and care should be exercised in protecting oneself from them. The most obvious in need of protection are your lungs. They are doubly at risk because they absorb airborne vapors and introduce them into your bloodstream and they are susceptible to capturing airborne particles that can then either leach toxins into your lungs for absorption or cause your body's immune system to react to them in harmful ways.

There are various devices for filtering what we breathe in and some are more effective than others. Let's look at products we can have reasonable access to.


01-06-2012, 05:08 PM
Lightweight nose/mouth filters.

These are simple fiber material, inexpensive to manufacture and usually come in boxes of multiples.


These use simple elastics to fasten and usually have a metal strip on the nose bridge that you pinch to form-fit to the shape of your nose. They are "molded" to a generic shape that doesn't really seem to fit anybody's face properly and because of this they often leave gaps where unfiltered air will pass through when breathing. These masks have no active filtration and therefore can only filter airborne particles and not harmful vapors. This means that while they are capable of filtering the paint component of overspray (subject to proper fit), they cannot filter the vapor component such as the paint thinner.
These should be considered the most basic protection as they are better than nothing if you can make it seal adequately around your mouth and nose.


01-06-2012, 05:35 PM
Vapor masks.

These are molded rubber for the most part and have replaceable filters. The mask itself is rather inexpensive but filters can be depending on the type.


This type of mask is very effective at sealing the mouth and nose because of the material used and the fact that it uses adjustable elastic straps that go around your head and can apply a much more uniform pressure along the sealing surface. Also, because the mask itself is not the filtering component, one can test different brands/models for proper fit and comfort. The use of a one-way valve assures that air only travels in one direction through the filter which actually increases the contact pressure of the mask as the person breathes in.
The filters, also called cartridges, come in many "flavors" to filter different sizes of particles or different types of harmful vapors. What is extremely useful is that most times, these cartridges can be stacked in order to filter more than what one type of cartridge can all by itself.
Cartridges can be expensive depending on the type but they usually last a long time so while the initial cost can seem high, it ends up being cheaper in the long run.

This is what I would consider "adequate" protection for anything harmful that can be reasonably encountered in the environment we work in, including most industrial environments. It filters both particulate matter as well as vapor matter with the right choice of filters.

The drawback of this type of mask is that it cannot seal effectively if the wearer has a significant amount of facial hair at the sealing surface.


01-06-2012, 06:20 PM
Full-face masks.

These are usually molded rubber with a large plastic lens for unobstructed viewing. They can be rather expensive even at the low end of the price range.


There are many types of these for many different uses and their most basic functions are the same as the vapor mask with the added function of protecting the eyes as well. Because they are designed to seal beyond the normal edges of facial hair, they are much more effective at sealing. Also, because they do not inhibit normal facial movement they do not impede speech or vision and tend to be more comfortable to wear.
The drawback to these is that usually without some sort of ventilation the lens can fog up and so these types of masks are sometimes paired with an external air supply or a filtered ventilation system.

This is a regular cartridge unit.


Here is a self-contained powered air purifying respirator.


And here is a respirator with an external purifying system. This last setup is what is typically used in a shop-type environment such as fiberglass construction. (the owner of this particular setup works on boats) The below example can also use regular cartridges so it is very adaptable.


Full-face masks are the most effective at filtering out the bad stuff that can get into our lungs and eyes and should be considered anytime one works in those types of environments, even for brief periods of time.


01-06-2012, 06:43 PM
Great info on masks bud. Thanks alot for writing this up. :beerchug:

01-06-2012, 09:43 PM
Yes, thanks for getting the ball rolling in our new safety section!

I'll tell you guys this topic hits very close to home for me.
I work a lot with the plastics, solvents and sprays. Years previous I worked in the automotive paint industry to the point that the chemicals were really getting to me and had to walk away. Now many years back into this hobby and getting lazy, rushing and cheating here and there without the proper face filters. Well the effects are sometimes very scary.
This November I returned from a mind altering doctor's appointment investigating some mystery swelling and sinus bleeding. The words specialist and biopsy literally had me pacing back and fourth for 3 weeks. Foolish risks to save time and money was a selfish choice on my part and was very luck to have tests come back clear, VERY LUCKY.

The results.
Well because of a nose break and home fix from years and stunts gone by I have a crooked interior (deviated septum). Apparently this causes a turbulence inside my nose when inhaling, some of the vapors and chemicals to settle in one place literally rotting holes in the sinuses. Now that I've had the living heck scared out of me this is my new years resolution. The fact that some of the sprays and solvents can have this effect on the body is bananas!

Please don't take your health and safety for granted, don't be crazy WEAR A MASK so we can all be around to enjoy the hobby together. Simple precautions, reading the labels on products and common sense is crucial.

Spread the word and keep the hobby safe for yourselves and everyone around you!
Thanks to Sean for taking the initiative and posting this up :biggthumpup:

01-07-2012, 06:46 AM
That was some very good information and I want to say thank you too.

Recently I have been doing some wood working and learning a little about dust control. Maybe this doesn't apply as much to building RC, but think about it. I have a very inexpensive box fan that is about 24' x 24" that I have taped a furnace filter to the inlet side. When I am sanding and introducing a lot of fine particles into the air, this thing does an amazing job of keeping the air cleaner.

01-07-2012, 01:33 PM
Excellent thread! Thanks for starting this, Sean.

01-08-2012, 10:17 AM
Is it coincidence that there are 2 Sean's getting the ball rolling with safety tips? Perhaps it's cause we who hold the name have done all the bad things and know what to watch out for now.
So from one Sean to another, great article on lung protection, it's something not enough people consider, there's a lot of really nasty stuff getting in to the air when working on RC.

01-08-2012, 02:38 PM
Thanks guys, it was my pleasure and I hope it can be of benefit to everybody in some way.

Shryke, yeah I've done a lot of bad things to my body in the past either through neglect or ignorance. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I've worked in an autobody shop, painted over a dozen cars in my own garage, cleaned flue pipes at a mine smelter, worked in asbestos environments and have fabbed my fair share of bumpers, skidplates, etc for my own 1:1 trucks. I have gone through many industry indoctrination sessions (mines, pulp mills, asbestos environments, mold environments, confined spaces) and while I am no expert I do have a good working knowledge of the equipment needed for each one. Ironically, industry work has never put me in a hazardous situation without proper equipment but I have been negligent while working on my own dime. Anybody who has grinded steel for hours in the shop knows the taste of iron, who has sanded filler from a 1:1 vehicle knows the scum that comes from blowing your nose at the end of the job, or who has welded galvanized metal without a respirator knows the migraine/hangover/flu-like feeling that comes from breathing the fumes. Yep, I've done all those things and more at one time or another. Painted a vehicle without a vapor mask? Pick me. How about cleaning up with gunwash (a form of paint thinner for cleaning spray guns) without gloves until I felt the tingling of toxic shock setting in my fingers? Yup. :nonono: The thing is, I was no longer ignorant at that time, just negligent. The human body can tolerate and recover from a lot of abuse but invariably it always catches up to you in the long run. The less you can be exposed to the bad stuff, the longer you will be alive to enjoy the good stuff.

Nowadays I work in IT for a school board so the worse stuff I have to deal with are the dust bunnies that accumulate in computers and the crud that laptops get covered with. Gloves and HEPA filter vacuums are de rigueur as well as non-toxic LCD cleaner and hand sanitizer by the case. ;)

Sean :cool: