There are lots of things you'll see on TV that you should stay away from personally. A recent re-run that made us shake our collective heads was the lung protection worn by folks who should know better in some truly frightening homes shown on the A&E show Hoarders.
Let us say for the record that if legions of rats (or cats) are using your home as a restroom, or if you go into a house that hasn't had working plumbing since the Nixon era, there are more than likely some very real reasons for wearing a proper respirator. Mold, ammonia, toxic dust and other organic vapors can cause serious illness and damage lung tissue.
We looked to see if the A&E folks said anything on their message board about their seemingly cavalier attitude toward air filtering and lung protection and here's a response from one of the show's hosts about the dangers and how they deal with them.
"I actually own a biohazard remediation company," writes Cory Chalmers "So we go into some very extreme conditions." But he adds that "it is then up to each person individually to wear personal protective equipment as he/she feels is appropriate. Sometimes we will wear a respirator then take it off to talk on camera because it is impossible to understand us while it is on."
So, while we're glad to hear that they are trained professionals, we doubt very seriously this is the same instruction he gives his biohazard remediation employees. OSHA has rules about that sort of thing. We believe in the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. The more accustomed to these situations one becomes, the less cautious they are to the dangers. Like the example of firefighters not using breathing apparatus for small fires where air testing shows dangerous levels of hydrogen cyanide and other chemicals.
Here is a suggestion for the hosts and production company of Hoarders if they can't be understood unless they remove their masks - a Con-Space throat mike! This type of microphone produces excellent quality sound taken from the vibration of the vocal chords. Of course it doesn't take care of that more vital problem of respirators on TV - the fact that you can't see the speaker's face. I can't solve everything here, people. It's just a blog.
Since the Hoarders' staff often don't model the types of respirators and filters you should really be wearing, we'll go over some basics for your hoarding clean-out personal protective equipment (PPE).
For ammonia, excessive cat pee or feces, general stench and other compounds that produce organic vapors, a charcoal-based filter should be used such as the 3M 6001 Organic Vapor Cartridge or the Moldex 7600 Multi-Gas Smart Cartridges.
Lots of these houses also have structural problems, dirt and dust which may be toxic and that becomes airborne during clean up. In this type of situation, a pre-filter should be used in addition to the cartridges. A P-100 filter, like this one from Moldex, will remove all particles down to 3 microns as you breath the air. A P-95 filter (this one also requires a retainer to keep it fixed over the cartridge) will remove 95% of those particles.
People regularly ask how often filters need to be replaced. Clearly, some spaces are dirtier than others. And some are way, way dirtier. But there's no set time when these filters and cartridges need to be replaced. The filters will not start letting more particles come in as they get filled up. It will simply get more difficult to pull air through them. If you notice that pulling breath through the filters is more difficult, it's time to move to a clean air environment, and change the pre-filters out for clean ones.
For the cartridges, they are only good for six months once the package is opened, even if they aren't used. The carbon inside them will absorb contaminants even when air isn't being pulled through them. Many things can influence the life of a cartridge while it is in use. Things like humidity, ventilation, and exposure to vapors. In general, if you begin to smell the things you are trying to keep out, you know either your cartridge is used up, or you have a poor face seal. In either case, move to a clean air space before affecting repairs or working on the seal.
If you have any questions about the best protection for your serious household jobs, please feel free to call us at 800-829-9580, or contact us online at pksafety.com.
Thanks for reading, and clean up that mess!