A reader wrote in today, asking for some quick reusable facemask respirator recommendations. My first thought was of 3M’s products, and so I did some digging around to doublecheck familiar product numbers. Along the way I learned that 3M recently came out with some new filters that they say provide for easier breathing comfort.
When you place a filter in front of air flow, it requires more energy to pull air into your lungs.
These new 2200-series respirator filters, models 2291 and 2297, are made with an Advanced Electret Media (AEM) material that provides a lower initial pressure drop compared to comparable competing filters. In other words, they’re easier to breathe through.
3M says that the pressure drop across the new filters is 30% lower than for standard P100 filters. Presumably, they’re talking about competing filters and their own 2000-series filters (2091 and 2097).
The new filters are compatible with 3M half- and full-face masks. As with the 2000-series filters, these can be used as pre-filters with some of 3M’s chemical-vapor cartridges.
For reference, P100 means these filters comply with NIOSH guidelines and provide 99.97% filtering efficiency (or better) against airborne particles. The P means the filters are resistant to oil. N100 filters are typically a little less expensive, but I could only find P100 filters made with the new higher efficiency material.
I have not seen any respirator sets that come with these new filters, so you will have to buy them separately. If you’re new to reusable respirators, consider 3M’s 6000-series half-face masks. If my memory is correct, I believe most people will want to choose the medium face mask size.
You have the choice between 2291 and 2297 filters. As with the standard 2091 and 2097 filters, the 2291 filter provides P100 protection and the 2297 filter provides P100 protection with added nuisance-level organic vapor relief. In other words, the filters ending in “7” additionally block bothersome odors but do NOT provide protection against organic vapor levels above permissible exposure levels.
The new filters are a little pricier compared to 3M’s standard 2091 and 2097 P100 filters. A new 6000-series mask and pair of 2200-series filters costs as low as $18-20 or so.