The irony is...this is in a health food store.
November 28, 2006 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know anything about masks and propane?

I operate a floor-buffer a few times a week, for about an hour at a time. It runs on propane (the same stuff as a gas grill). I want to get a mask (less expensive, disposable ones would be preferable) that would filter out whatever it is that an internal combustion engine running on propane would exhaust. I have no idea how big the particulates/vapors are that are spit out, so I don't know what level of filtration the mask I need would have. If it matters, the lubricating oil is not mixed with the gas (like in some lawnmowers).
posted by iurodivii to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
A mask isn't going to do much. If the engine is working properly the exhaust will be carbon dioxide and water.
posted by sanko at 9:46 AM on November 28, 2006

Those are dust maks. The engine should not be emitting any particulates if running on propane. Those masks will filter out dust being kicked up off of the floor by the buffer. The engine will emit carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide among other gasses. I doubt the concentration is high enough to be of concern.
posted by caddis at 9:48 AM on November 28, 2006

Yep, carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide and water is all that should be coming out. Those are hard/expensive to filter. Depending on what chemical cleaners you use, it may be easier to filter or replace those.
posted by Science! at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: It is the exhaust I am worried about, as I can certainly smell it. I have no idea if the ventilation in a small grocery store is considered adequate...

Thanks folks, for pointing me in the right direction.
posted by iurodivii at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2006

CO2 and CO are both difficult to filter out. If you're really interested, you can read about workplace exposure to Carbon Monoxide (PDF!). Page 22 covers respirators and employee protection. Basically, unless you want to use a Scott pack, don't bother: "the use of a chemical cartridge respirator is NOT recommended because there is no way of knowing when the cartridge is saturated. ...Those which are recommended are supplied air respirators..." The recommended safety precautions are all about controlling the sources of CO and preventing it from reaching dangerous/toxic levels.

You are better off making sure you have a well-ventilated workspace, by opening a window, than messing around with a cartridge respirator. However, a dust mask to keep you from inhaling whatever the floor buffer might turn up (I have no idea what you're buffing) could be helpful if it looks llike it's producing any.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:14 AM on November 28, 2006

Are you sure you're not smelling the wax?

Also, you may be smelling Methanethiol , a stinky gas used to lep people detect propane leaks more easily (propane is odourless). I'm no chemist, but Methanethiol may not change during combustion, making the exhaust stink like the gas. (But maybe not) Or your propane lines may be leaking.
posted by GuyZero at 3:01 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Definitely not the wax. Its a similar smell as my gas stove when a burner is lit. And I can probably rule out a propane leak because I only notice the smell when the machine is running.
posted by iurodivii at 3:58 PM on November 28, 2006

I'm with the "crack a window" school here. Any type of mask that would filter CO2 is going to be more akin to scuba gear or at least the respirator that firemen wear. If that's where you want to go it may just be cheaper to buy an electric buffer.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:19 PM on November 28, 2006

Propane, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide are all completely odorless, so that is not what you are smelling. I agree that it sounds like you're really smelling the methyl mercaptan that's added to the propane to give it an odor. The wikipedia page says that it is very odoriferous, so if there was even a little bit of unburned propane you'd smell it (i.e. the engine is running even just a little bit rich.)

I think in terms of being safe, you should watch out for the signs of CO poisoning (headache, dizzyness, etc) and don't worry about the smell, because the things that can harm you have no smell. And certainly take heed of proper ventilation.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:39 AM on November 29, 2006

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