The Delta Health and Safety Team Breaks Down 3M’s Respiratory Protection Technology


3M Believes Knowledge is Power When it Comes to Respiratory Protection


Respirators are crucial in specific workspaces. Employees subject to dust, fog, smoke, mist, or hazardous gases, vapours and sprays need respiratory protection.


However, not all respirators offer the same protection. 3M and Delta Health and Safety equip you with the knowledge to make the right respiratory choices. We picked the brains of our expert team to answer some critical questions about the technology behind 3M’s products. Here are some important insights to note.


Your Respiratory Protection Dictionary


As with any PPE, respiratory equipment comes with its own jargon. Here are some important terms we think will help you choose the proper protection.

Respirator or Mask


A respirator is piece of equipment that fits over the mouth and nose or the entire face to protect the respiratory system. It protects the wearer by filtering out  dangerous substances (such as dust, fumes, bacteria or other hazardous substances). Respirators protect the wearer against potentially hazardous particles created by the work environment.

Masks on the other hand, are primarily made to keep particles breathed out by the wearer – for example, saliva or mucus – from contaminating the work environment.



FFP stands for filtering facepiece. This abbreviation is cited with a number at the end indicating its protection level.


A respirator code may also contain the term “NR”, meaning it is not reusable.



A manufacturer’s safety data sheet provides information about a substance’s safety implications.



In respiratory protection, filter media is the portion of a filtering system that separates unwanted particles from the substance (air) being filtered.

Particulate filters filter out particles such as dusts, mists, and fumes. They do NOT provide protection against gases and vapours



Respirator cartridges are filled with a material called activated carbon.

Gas and vapour respiratory filters/cartridges are designed to protect the wearer against hazardous gases and vapour

Negative Pressure Air Respirator


A negative pressure respirator means any tight-fitting respirator in which the air pressure inside the facepiece is negative during inhalation in relation to the ambient air pressure outside the respirator.

Positive Pressure Air Respirator


This refers to any respirator in which a positive air pressure is maintained within the facepiece while the device is in use and being worn properly.

Supplied Air System


Also known as air-line respirators. This system supplies air to a facepiece, via a supply line from a stationary source. This system is may limited range of movement.

Powered Air System


A powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) is a system that uses a fan to deliver filtered air into a variety of headgear and facepiece options. This system is portable and battery-operated.

Learning Which Respirator is Best Suited to Your Environment


There are various forms of respiratory technology. Each serves a unique purpose and protects from specific hazards. It is essential to learn the difference so you can select the correct equipment for your team.

Reusable and Disposable Respirators


3M’s range of respirators offers disposable and reusable options.


A disposable option is suitable for general applications that do not require protection from hazardous chemicals. Our team suggests the FFP2 8810 as a suitable all-around option to protect from dust.

The letters NR on a respirator signify that it is Non Reusable (single shift use only). NR does not signify protection levels.


Reusable respirators can be used with particulate filters, gas and vapor cartridges or combination cartridges, which may need to be replaced on a schedule or as needed. It is also a more cost-effective option for employees that need daily protection for continuous applications.

3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Reusable & Disposable Respirators | Delta Health and Safety
3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Cup Shaped Respirators | Delta Health and Safety

Cup-Shaped and Foldable Filtering Facepiece Respirators


The choice of respirator shape comes down to fit testing and comfort. Some face shapes experience a better seal when using a cup-shaped model, other face spaces get a better seal with a flat fold respirator.


Due to convenience, some users will be tempted to allow a fold flat respirator to hang around their neck when not in use. Even though this may seem ‘comfortable’, respirators should not be worn or pulled down around the neck.

Valved Filtering Facepiece Respirators


The valve on a valved respirator is a comfort device. The valve lets air out more easily, which makes breathing more comfortable and regulated. It should also keep the respirator less sweaty.


Respirators fitted with valves are ideal for long shift work in hotter and more humid environments. The valve allows air to escape when the wearer exhales, improving comfort and temperature control.


The valve on a valved respirator does not affect or contribute towards the level of protection that the mask offers, but it controls how much expelled air can escape from the mask and how quickly it can do this.


Unvalved respirators do not easily release all exhaled air. This increases perspiration around the face, making the face sweaty and irritated and can lead to claustrophobia for some people.

3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Valved Filtering Facepiece Respirators | Delta Health and Safety
3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Maintenance Free Reusable Respirators | Delta Health and Safety

Maintenance-Free Reusable Respirators


These respirators provide an excellent middle ground between disposable and reusable options.


A maintenance-free reusable respirator must be placed in its sealed storage bag when not in use. This helps maintain the filter’s integrity and keep the mask clean.


As a standard, these respirators can last for up to 30 days. However, this depends on correct storage and the time and intensity of the wearer’s hazard exposure.

Cartridge Filtered Respirators


The distinction between filters and filter cartridges needs to be highlighted. Cartridge filtered respirators filter out gas and vapour. Filters (on their own) filter out particles.


Each cartridge is rated for specific chemicals in their gas and vapour form. Ensure that you chat to a Delta Health and Safety team member about the substances you are exposed to. They will be able to recommend the correct cartridge or filter.

3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Filtered Respirators | Delta Health and Safety
3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Full & Half Face Mask Respirators | Delta Health and Safety

Full- and Half-face mask Respirators


Half-face respirators cover the lower half of the face, including the nose and mouth.

Full-face respirators cover the eyes and much of the face, and can sometimes replace the need for safety glasses.

Respiratory Protection from Chemicals


Protecting your employees from inhaling chemical hazards is essential to maintaining a healthy workforce. There are organic and inorganic chemical hazards, and each needs specific filters.


Each filter contains a sorbent. This material reacts with the gas or vapour to remove it from the air. Chemical filters offer protection from:


  • Organic vapour
  • Inorganic vapour
  • Acid gases
  • Ammonia


Different types of chemicals require a different filter media and thus a different filter. For example, an A filter or cartridge will protect the wearer from organic vapours with a boiling point below 65 degrees. Inorganic vapours require a B filter or cartridge. An E filter protects from acid gases. If organic, inorganic and acid gas hazards are present, as well as ammonia, an ABEK cartridge is necessary. For organic vapours with a boiling point above 65 degrees, an AX filter is necessary.


Ensure you are using the correct filter or cartridge by discussing your needs with one of our team. Alternatively, you can provide us with your MSDS information so that we can advise you.


Powered Air Systems vs Supplied Air Systems


Sometimes just negative pressure filtering of the air is not sufficient. Employees may require positive pressure air. This can be provided through two systems.

Powered Air Systems


This battery-powered motorised system uses a fan to draw air through a filter. It should not be used as protection against substances that are difficult to identify through taste or smell. It is suitable for long shifts and offers reduced breathing resistance.

3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Powered Air Respirators | Delta Health and Safety
3M's Respiratory Protection Technology - Supplied Air Respirators | Delta Health and Safety

Supplied Air Systems


This requires air to be supplied through a compressor from an outside source. As it is not recycling environmental air, it is suitable for difficult to detect hazards.

What Make’s 3M’s Respiratory Protection So Sought After?


3M’s respiratory protective equipment is tried and tested. Their products offer longevity, giving you good value for money.


A significant advantage of 3M respiratory protection is the ability to procure replacement parts. Any worn parts, like head straps, are replaceable, so you do not have to buy a new respirator.


3M has innovated respiratory protection.

Their cartridge filter range has a bayonet attachment which simplifies cartridge replacement.

Some models include a speaking diaphragm which is designed to help provide easier communication while working.

The 3M™ Secure Click™ platform includes a half facepiece reusable respirator with the world’s first quad-flow cartridge system. Two dual-flow cartridges on each respirator combine to create four airflow paths for easier breathing. It also includes a one-touch user seal check gives workers increased confidence that their respirator is being worn properly.

When some ranges of respirators are not in active use, a quick drop-down feature allows the respirator to be taken off in a non-contaminated environment without having to remove a hard hat.


The Delta Health and Safety Team are waiting to assist you with Your 3M Respiratory Protection


Get in touch with our team today. We are extensively trained by 3M to enable us to serve you best.