What Are The Three Types of Respirators?

By February 4, 20223M, All Products, Products

The purpose of this article is to highlight the possible alternative types of respirators for use in healthcare workplaces to help protect workers from infectious airborne biological particles, such as viruses and bacteria.

When respiratory protection is recommended to help reduce exposure to biological hazards, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) often recommend respirators at least as protective as an N95, FFP2, or similar particulate respirator. All filtering facepiece respirators that are certified as N95, FFP2, KN95, or similar can, when properly selected and worn, effectively filter airborne biological particles such as viruses and bacteria.2-5 Surgical filtering facepiece respirators are also cleared as surgical masks by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Union Notified Bodies, or an equivalent authority in other countries.


Healthcare facilities often standardize on approved surgical filtering facepiece particulate respirators, sometimes also referred to as surgical N95s, healthcare respirators or medical respirators, for workers providing patient care. However, during disease outbreaks, or public health disasters, availability of approved surgical filtering facepiece respirators may become limited and organizations should evaluate whether other, more readily available, respirators would be appropriate for use. In many situations, it can be appropriate for healthcare workers to use respirators other than surgical or standard filtering facepiece respirators. The CDC indicates that healthcare facilities should consider and use alternatives to N95 respirators where feasible and appropriate. These include other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, elastomeric half-facepiece and full facepiece air purifying respirators and powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). All of these alternatives will provide equivalent or higher respiratory protection than N95 respirators when properly selected and worn.

Here are some considerations to help healthcare organizations determine whether these other respirator types might work within their respiratory protection program.

Key Attributes


Key Potential Advantages


Key Potential Limitations


Select Examples


3M Particulate Respirator 8110SNon-surgical filtering facepiece respirators
  • Effectively filter airborne biological particles such as viruses and bacteria
  • Designed to fit tightly to the face
  • Certified as a particulate respirator



  • Low Cost
  • Minimal care and maintenance
  • Wide variety available


  • Wearer must be clean shaven in area of the face-seal
  • Fit with certain safety glasses


All 3M filtering facepiece respirators can filter biological particles, including these classes:

• N95

• P95

• P100


3mtm-half-facepiece-reusable-respirator-6100Elastomeric respirators


  • Effectively filter airborne biological particles such as viruses and bacteria
  • Designed to fit tightly to the face
  • Multiple sizes
  • Can be cleaned, disinfected and reused


  • Low Cost
  • Reusable
  • Eye protection (Full-face only


  • Wearer must be clean shaven in area of the faceseal
  • Fit with certain safety glasses (half-face)
  • Storage, cleaning, and maintenance required
  • Fit with Prescription eyewear (Fullface)


Any 3M elastomeric facepiece equipped with appropriate 3M particulate filters, per applicable regulatory approvals, including:

  • 7093, 7093C filters, P100 filters
  • 5N11 & 5P71 pre-filter assemblies
  • 2000 series disc filters
  • 6092X Series filters – cartridges


powered-air-purifying-respiratorsPowered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs)


  • Effectively filter airborne biological particles such as viruses and bacteria
  • Designed to fit over some facial hair
  • Variety of styles and facepiece/head top offerings
  • Can be cleaned, disinfect


  • Wide variety of head-tops
  • Limited facial hair permitted for loose-fitting head- gear
  • Eye/face protection (certain headgear)
  • More of face visible
  • Low breathing burden and increased comfort


  • Storage, cleaning, maintenance required
  • Care, charging, and life of PAPR batteries
  • Weight and size


All 3M PAPR particulate filters can filter biological particles


You may want to read more relevant articles about Respiratory Protection 

3M Reusable Respirators

3M Disposable Respirators

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