Dust masks are flexible pads that are strapped in place over a person’s nose and mouth in order to filter out environmental particles, gases and vapors from the lungs. Dust masks are produced in various classes of protection, from minor-protection units known as “nuisance” masks to high-protection masks known as respirators. They are fixed in place by either one or two bands that go around the wearer’s head, and they can come in pre-fabricated packs of disposable masks or can be fashioned to an individual’s face for multiple uses.
Personal Sanitation - Dust masks can be worn during daily activities for people concerned about low-grade particle contamination in their living, working and recreational environments. People with allergies or sensitivity or with weakened immune systems can employ dust masks to create a more comfortable experience while gardening, hiking, house-cleaning and other dust-creating activities. Most often, "nuisance" dust masks are employed on a personal level and only filter out solid particles while not providing protection from organic or chemical-based fumes.
Construction and Renovation - Construction workers (or those involved in do-it-yourself home renovation) often wear dust masks to avoid inhaling particles while on the job. Construction and renovation dust masks are often held to higher standards of protection in order to filter out silicate particles from pulverized brick, carbon monoxide from gas-powered tools, and paint fumes. Dust masks can also protect the worker's face from splashes of toxic materials such as glue and liquid concrete.
Artistic Pursuits - Certain artistic mediums require the use of dust masks in order to keep the artist from inhaling potentially toxic materials. When working with wood, for instance, the carver might wish to wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in copious amounts of sawdust. Other hazardous materials include lead when working with stained glass windows, dried paint, ceramic powder, plaster and metal flakes. Artists should always double-check the health requirements attached to the materials they wish to work with to determine whether a dust mask is beneficial to their health.
Emergency Situations - Should you put together a kit to deal with possible emergency situations, it is often advised to include a dust mask alongside other tools. In case of natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, or even volcanic eruptions, depending on where you live, dust masks can help protect you from ash and other pollutants that might otherwise impede proper breathing. They can reduce the chance of lung infections, and higher-grade masks can help prevent the spread of airborne disease.