Several painters have contacted us lately with questions about our airline respirators. Mostly these guys are painting cars, car parts, or completing repairs. They want to know about contaminants in the air, if their shop compressor can be used, and how many guys can work on the different compressors. The answers in order are: Yes. Sometimes. It depends.
We've talked about the dangers of isocyanides contained in urethane paint in previous posts. It's scary stuff. It can't be filtered with activated charcoal, or at least not for long. And you can't really tell when your cartridge stopped working. If you're aware of the terrible things this stuff does to your brain and body, you're going to shy away from a cartridge solution. To protect these workers, clean air has to be brought from somewhere else and there are a couple of ways to achieve this.
Most folks know that regular air from shop compressors can contain water, oil, and other particles so they can't be used to supply breathable air. Unless of course you have an Allegro Filtration Panel 9872. The Allegro system, also called a "breather box," is designed to filter impurities and hydrocarbons produced by the internally lubricating compressor. As stipulated by OSHA, the breather box also contains a carbon monoxide (CO) monitor to provide constant warning if concentrations get too high.
The breather box is housed in a rugged plastic case and all the plumbing is made of brass. The unit has quick-connect couplers so it's easy to plug into your system and get started. The three-stage filtration process first gets rid of water and larger particles. The second stage cleans the air down to 0.10 microns, and the third stage catches particles down to 0.003 microns which is about one thousandth the size if the diameter of a human hair. So it's pretty darned small. Air intake for the unit should be inspected before use to make sure the process isn't starting with contaminated air. A feeder hose is easy to install, and doesn't have to be high-tech. Folks we know have plumbed pvc from the intake to the roof and then put a screen and cover over the inlet - simple and effective.
The second solution for painters using urethane paint are ambient air pumps. These pumps are specifically designed to move breathable air to workers. They don't have the problems with water and crud that regular pumps do. If you have more than one worker, the Allegro 9821 A-750 provides enough air for two workers using masks or one worker with a full airline hood assembly.
Until we can develop paints that are as hard and shiny as urethane but without the hazards, painters need to be very aware of their exposure. Ambient air systems provide the best current solution for these workers. If you have questions about which pump or system is best for your crew, please don't hesitate to contact us online at pksafety.com or give us a call at 1-800-829-9580.