This is a pretty common question for people who use respirators regularly. It is important when using a respirator to ensure that it is clean and fresh so that it offers the proper amount of filtering and protection for you.
The simple and basic answer to this question is that it depends. There are many factors that play into when a respirator cartridge should be replaced, so it is difficult to give a blanket statement for this common question.
Depending on the type of filter you are using it is protecting you against dust, smoke, bacteria, mold, mists, fumes, and smoke. If you use a particulate filter, you should replace the cartridge as soon as you notice any sort of difficulty breathing or if the cartridge is noticeably or obviously dirty.
If you are using a gas or vapor respirator cartridge you need to pay attention to several different factors to determine when it is time to replace your cartridge. One general rule of thumb is to pay attention to when you can detect the contaminate by smell or taste. If you experience this, it is time to get a new filter. If a cartridge is opened out of its package it should always be discarded even if it hasn’t been used. Even if the filter has not been used, it will absorb the contaminants in the environment.
The two main rules of thumb you should keep in mind are 1. when you begin to have difficulty breathing or 2. if you can begin to smell the contaminants that are meant to be kept out. These are clear signs that you should replace your cartridges.
First and foremost always follow guidelines provided by your workplace safety coordinator. It is important to know that there are several factors that can reduce their service life. This is especially true in the case of gas and chemical cartridge filters. Using the cartridges beyond their service life can lead to regulatory violations and even endanger the workers.
Focus on the correct ways to create a filter change schedule for your workplace and adjust it on a regular basis to offer maximum safety to the workers.