March 28th, 2011 – 3M Information Regarding the Use of Respiratory Protection for Exposures to Airborne Radiation Resulting from the Nuclear Reactor Incident in Japan

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3M Occupational Health andEnvironmental Safety Division
3M Center, Building 235-02-W-70
St. Paul, MN 55144-1000

March 28, 2011 – Information Regarding the Use of Respiratory Protection for Exposures to Airborne Radiation Resulting from the Nuclear Reactor Incident in Japan

March 28, 2011
The 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division (OH&ESD) has received questions regarding selection and use of respirators to help reduce exposure to radioactive material that might be in the air.

At this time, 3M is not aware of any agency recommending the use of respiratory protection for the general public to help reduce exposures to radioactive material resulting from the current situation in Japan.

On Sunday March 27, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that “As a result of the incident with the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, several EPA air monitors have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the United States consistent with estimates from the damaged nuclear reactors. These detections were expected and the levels detected are far below levels of public-health concern.” On Wednesday March 16, 2011 the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that “all the available information continues to indicate Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.”

We will continue to monitor information from the EPA, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other government agencies as conditions in Japan change.
Should exposure to radioactive materials be of concern, the best ways to limit exposure from external sources of radiation are to: 1) limit exposure time; 2) increase distance from the radioactive material; and 3) block radiation using appropriate shielding. Internal exposure to radioactive material may be reduced by: 1) proper use of respiratory protection; 2) monitoring food and water for contamination; and 3) using appropriate skin protection to prevent absorption and wound contamination.

Individuals can come into contact with radioactive materials through exposure to particulates, gases or vapors. When properly selected, fitted and used according to the manufacturer’s user instructions and local regulations, respirators can help reduce exposures to airborne contaminants, including particulates, gases and vapors, but will not eliminate all exposures.

Further, respirators will not provide shielding against external sources of beta and gamma radiation.

3M particulate respirators can help reduce inhalation exposures to radioactive particles.

However, particulate respirators, such as N95 respirators, will not reduce exposure to gases or vapors.

Radioactive material may also exist in gas or vapor form, such as the radioactive iodine vapor which may be present at the affected site in Japan. 3M offers specially designed gas and vapor cartridges, paired with a particulate filter, which are necessary to help filter these types of vapors.

These types of cartridges are frequently used by workers in the nuclear industry.

Further information regarding the situation in Japan can be found on the World Health Organization’s website:
Further information from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency can be found at:
Further information from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission can be found at:

Additionally, 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division can be reached at the following numbers:
U.S. Technical Assistance 1-800-243-4630
U.S. Customer Service 1-800-328-1667
For more information, visit

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