Protect Your Health with the Right Mask for the Right Job

Protect Your Health with the Right Mask for the Right Job

September 20, 2013

Learn about the source of possible contaminants, particularly organic particles, and their impact on your health.

Learn how to select the right, NIOSH-approved mask for the job as well as advantages and disadvantages of different styles. What's the number on the mask mean? N100 means it should filter 100% of the air you're breathing. 

Learn why it's important to get the right mask for the right job with the right fit. While a mask with one strap may be quick to put on, it doesn't seal as well as one with two straps. See how to test and fit a mask with a respirator to your facial features.

Temperature, humidity, and level of dust can affect how soon you need to toss your disposable mask. See how non-disposable masks should be cleaned to extend their use.

Wearing a properly fitted mask can help protect you from the harmful effects of aflatoxins and endotoxins in grain this harvest season. Aflatoxins are potent toxins produced by molds and endotoxins are potent toxins produced by bacteria.  Both can be found in corn and soybeans.

Where drought conditions are prevalent, particularly in dryland production areas, and where corn is moldy, assume all corn dust contains aflatoxin and wear respiratory protection, recommends the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health.

The Center, located at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, also recommends:

  • Wear a properly fitted N95 mask approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in any dusty condition.
  • Wear a mask when combining moldy corn. Tractor cabs with poor filtering systems will not provide protection from mold spores.
  • Clean and change cab filters regularly.

Working with the Iowa Ag Safety group, CSCASH has developed four videos with tips for buying, fitting, and caring for masks, as well as information on the types of organic particles that may cause problems during soybean and corn harvest and how they affect your lungs. In these short videos Carolyn Sheridan of AgriSafe Network talks with a farm husband and wife who add from their experiences.

For more safety and health information, visit

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