According to Cal-OSHA, the key to controlling occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dust, fogs, fumes, mists, gases or vapors is preventing atmospheric contamination.  The best protection is adequate ventilation.  Industrial Hygienist Monona Rossel discounts our common shoddy practice by pointing out that “Outside” does not count as ventilation unless you have an exclusive contract with  Mother Nature to blow air consistently in one direction away from you at all times.

The five elements to personal protection are~

  • Ventilation
  • Personal respirator
  • Gloves
  • Apron
  • Safety glasses

Respirators- Better than No Protection

Respirators are not substitutes for adequate ventilation.  According to OSHA regulations, respirators are “legal protection only”

1) when the hazardous process is used less than 30 times per year AND

2) while ventilation systems are being installed, repaired, maintained

3) during emergencies

4) for entry into an atmosphere of unknown origin

If your job requires you to wear a respirator

The employer must provide the following items.  In the UCI costume shop, we do not require anyone to handle chemicals.  We have a Voluntary Respirator Program in place.  If you cannot handle chemicals with a voluntary respirator, please talk to Vera or Holly.

1. A written program explaining the protocol that is in place.  You must know your workplace rating and safety plan.

2. A medical evaluation to determine your ability to withstand breathing stress in a respirator

3. Documented training annually to ensure familiarity with the chemicals and equipment

4. Periodic program evaluation

UC-Irvine’s Environmental Health & Safety office offers both required and voluntary respirator programs.  More on this TBA.

Types of personal respirators (non-air supplying)

Personal respirators are to be worn when using mists, dusts, fogs, fumes, vapors, smokes and sprays.  Use those products in a spray booth or with some other mechanical fan system that draws air away from the operator.  According to CalOSHA, a spray booth operator is required to wear a respirator when s/he is positioned downstream of the object being sprayed.  CalOSHA also requires that mechanical ventilation shall be kept in operation at all times while spraying is conducted and for a sufficient time thereafter to allow vapors to be exhausted.

  • NIOSH- this acronym should always be found on whatever type of respirator you use (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) A certifying organization
  • Disposable—look like dust masks and are DISCARDED AFTER EVERY USE.  NOTE this does not really conform to your face, so MISTS and POWDERS will slip right through.  These say on the box “DO NOT USE FOR PAINT SPRAY” Always read the respirator box when you work in a new place for the first time.
  • Quarter face—covers the mouth and nose.  These are ineffective by themselves, as they constrict air intake and seal to your face if properly fitted.  The respirator must be fitted with filters & cartridges to clean the air you breathe in
  • Filters & cartridges— these actually block the vapors and mists by trapping the airborne particles of vapors or mists, made for specific uses, such as Vapor and Mist.  Review the Chemical Exposure page and/or consult the list below to see which products require what filters.  Always store respirators with filters in a zipped baggie, or they will continue to filter the air and wear out more quickly.

Cartridges and Filters

When you use a quarter mask respirator, it is useless by itself.  You must add two filters and cartidges into the two circular pockets on either side.   Cartridges and filters are labeled for specific use, for instance ORGANIC VAPOR and MIST.  Put the mist filter in first ( a cotton like disk) and add the cartridge over that.  (See the images below. )

Disposable Respirator

Disposable Respirator

Quarter Face with Cartidges

Quarter Face with Cartridges

Filter and Cartridge Alone

Filter and Cartridge Alone

Respirator and Storage Bag

Respirator and Storage Bag

Dust and Mist Filter Alone

Dust and Mist Filter Alone


NOTE: Surgical gloves, whether rubber or plastic, are NEVER for chemical use.  They only  protect the hands from mild waterborne irritants.  Often used to keep dye or paint   stains from the skin, be aware these DO NOT protect against chemicals absorbing into your skin. Penetration creates no visible change in the glove appearance.    Chemical gloves or Impervious gloves are Neoprene coated.

Chemical gloves are impervious

Impervious Neoprene Chemical gloves

Rubber gloves protect from water only

Rubber gloves protect from water only

Heavy Duty Neoprene Gloves

Heavy Duty Neoprene Gloves

Chemical Safety Glasses

Chemical Safety Glasses

Neoprene Apron Protects from Chemicals

Neoprene Apron Protects from Chemicals

Common Products and Suggested Safety Equipment

This section uses safety equipment and chemical ingredients listed on the MSDS sheets for common products to determine which safety gear to wear with our products.


Enters body through the nose, skin, Permissible exposure limits: 1000 ppm

Exhaust:  A system of local or general exhaust is recommended. Local exhaust ventilation is generally preferred, preventing dispersion into the general work area

Personal Respirator: NIOSH approved quarter face respirator with organic vapor cartridges. If the exposure limit is exceeded, a half face organic vapor respirator may be worn for up the ten times the exposure limit

Skin protection:  wear impervious protective clothing including boots,  gloves, lab coat, apron or coverall to prevent skin contact

Neoprene coated gloves, apron

Eye protection: vapors are irritant to eyes, splashes cause severe irritation, Use chemical safety goggles and/ or face shield

Shoe Spray Paint

Enters body thru skin, solvent base enters thru nose, skin

Meltonian, Magix     Severe respiratory and nervous system irritant

Contains TULENE- a solvent base and ACETONE

Propane repellent

Exhaust: Use a NIOSH/MSHA approved mechanical filter to remove solid airborne particles of overspray. During spray                 application, in confined area use NIOSH/MSHA appvd airlilne type respirator.

“No ventilation requirements specified by MANUFACTURER”

Personal respirator: NOT LISTED BY MANUFACTURER, however, please note the MSDS sheet for Magix lists ACETONE

as an ingredient, so using the organic vapor respirator is wise

Gloves: “Impervious gloves”

Eye Protection: use chemical workers goggles

Listed by manufacturer as a Chronic Hazard, and “Slight Health Hazard”

Barge Cement

This product is a textbook case of how unhelpful an MSDS sheet can be.  If you read the recommended safety proceedures, you will find no recommendations for equipement.  If you read the list of ingredients, however, you will find a toxic solvent and known carcinogen listed.  See below:

Enters body nose, skin

Contains TULENE- a solvent base – repeated overexposure may cause liver damage

Contains Crystalline silica– may cause progressively disabling lung disease, possible carcinogen- 1 of 3 rating institutions, but not OSHA

Ventilation: Mechanical /general room ventilation is normally adequate,  LOCAL exhaust may be required if work area is not vented

“Industrial type work clothing and apron as required”


However, please note the MSDS sheet lists TULENEas an ingredient, so using the organic vapor respirator is wise

Gloves: Not specified by manufacturer, but because of the solvent ingredient TULENE, it is wise to use Impervious gloves

Chemical splash goggles Impervious gloves      Organic vapor + mist filter

Neoprene coated apron

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