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Particulate Filters & Vapor Cartridges

Particulate filters and vapor cartridges are installed in reusable half-mask or full-face respirators to filter out airborne contaminants. They are NIOSH-rated and used based on the environment and type of respiratory hazards that need to be filtered. Filters and cartridges are interchangeable based on the contaminant being filtered. They are changed out when they become dirty or when the type of contaminant changes. Masks used in a variety of industries and applications, including welding, metalworking, woodworking, chemical manufacturing, and healthcare.

3M makes organic vapor respirator cartridges to help reduce user exposure to many different organic vapors. To achieve this objective, respirator cartridges are filled with a material called activated carbon. Activated carbon is typically made from coal or renewable resources like wood or coconut shells. It is “activated” by heating the material in nitrogen or steam at approximate temperatures of 800 – 900 °C. The resulting material has a significant number of micropores that help adsorb various organic vapors. These micropores can be measured and optimized for specific product needs and performance.

When organic vapors are drawn through an organic vapor cartridge, the air is filtered as vapors condense into the carbon pores. Vapors move through the cartridge from one pore to the next. This occurs more quickly for small volatile vapors with lower boiling points (e.g., acetone). Some migration of organic vapors can even occur during storage, so care must be taken before reusing the cartridge. The effective service life is the time until vapors begin to exit the cartridge. Unlike particle filters, service life is not indicated by change in breathing resistance. Instead, cartridges must be changed according to local regulations; end-of-service-life indicator; taste, smell, or irritation from the contaminant; or according to 3M™ Service Life Software calculation, whichever comes first. Factors that influence service life: • Exposure concentration • Temperature • Humidity (water vapor takes up space in carbon pores) • Breathing rate Activated carbon by itself cannot adsorb other types of gases or vapors such as acid gases, ammonia, formaldehyde, etc. In some cases, additional metals and salts are added to the carbon to selectively remove these compounds. For this reason, 3M offers a variety of cartridges and facepieces to help protect workers in different environments and satisfy personal preferences. 3M is committed to develop quality safety products to help protect workers. For more information about 3M organic vapor cartridges, please read Technical Data Bulletin #142 “Reuse of Organic Vapor Chemical Cartridges” at