I sometimes do firedance and a part of it is waving a stick with burning endings made of Kevlar soaked in paraffin oil. I started to be a bit concerned about how healthy is it to inhale lot of paraffin oil fumes. I was wondering if I can protect somehow against it and my idea is to wear a mask with N99 active coal filter. The vendor claims that it blocks dust of size 0,1 mm and more. What noxious products of burning paraffin oil can it block? Which of them it can't?

  • $\begingroup$ Do you smoke? If yes, ignore the troubles. If not, than simply don't inhale the smoke. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Dec 21, 2015 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @permeakra How nasty a comment xDD But it’s true, most things one does in labs that are highly regulated (‘Wear dust masks! Do not inhale! Keep away from eyes!’) are much less dangerous than cigarette smoke ^^' $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Dec 21, 2015 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


Activated carbon's forte is vapor adsorption of hydrocarbons due to the activated carbon's high surface area, and this mask is probably very good at adsorbing fumes from hot parafin.

However, activated carbon does not tend to make a good material for filtering out the most harmful components of that kind of smoke, namely particulates smaller than 2.5 microns. In fact, the specification on the mask for particulate removal is that "that it blocks dust of size 0.1 mm and more" (meaning 100 microns and larger). The World Health Organization has classified particulate matter of 10 micron (one tenth of the size claimed to be removed by the mask) to be a Group 1 carcinogen $\mathrm{^{(1)}}$.

Your filters are likely very good at filtering the particulate size most relevant to a particular application. However, for your application (production of very fine smoke particulates), I suggest a mask that is rated to remove 95% of $\pu PM_{2.5}$.

1) Outdoor Particulate Matter Exposure and Lung Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408092


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.