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How facial hair impacts face masks and respiratory protection seals

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is critical in preventing workers from breathing in hazardous substances on the job.

This is especially important in industries such as construction, mining or agriculture that have a high exposure to airborne contaminants which can lead to lung disease.

Commonly, RPE involves a well-fitting mask such as:

  • Disposable masks
  • Re-usable half masks
  • Full face masks, including those used with breathing apparatus

Facial hair today, gone tomorrow

It’s crucial that RPE is worn correctly in order to prevent exposure to dangerous contaminants.

How much hair is too much?

2015 UK research has shown that even 24 hours of stubble growth can begin to impact the quality of the seal and reduce protection.

“Protection could be significantly reduced where stubble was present, beginning within 24 hours from shaving, and generally worsening as facial hair grew,” according to the research.

14 other studies over 20 years, showed that the presence of facial hair under the mask seal can cause 20 to 1000 times more leakage compared to clean-shaven workers.

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