When people ask me if they should or shouldn’t urban explore, I always tell them that it’s up them to make that decision and that they should evaluate the risks involved first but I’m also not going to stop them as I believe everyone should go out and explore the world around them, abandoned or not.
Nonetheless, if you decide to go urban exploring it should be done safely. One of the dangers of going into abandoned buildings is the air quality and the damage it can do to your lungs in the long run or kill you outright if you don’t take precautions. Please, do not wear a gas mask or wrap a t-shirt around your face if you actually intend to protect yourself.
So what’s a respirator? Respirators are masks that use filters to clean the air before it is breathed in.
Don’t confuse respirators with standard dust masks, the masks you usually see doctors and painters wearing. True respirators have a rubber boot to form a good seal with your face and check valves to positively isolate exhale and inhale path.
Respirators with P100 rated particulate filters are recommended if you’re going to a location that contains a significant amount of nuisance dust, large amounts of bird droppings, mold, aerosols or asbestos. P100 filters hold indefinitely and you can use them until they get dirty, wet, or becomes noticeably harder to breath in. No other filter protects against asbestos so using P100 filters so they’re recommended.
If the place you plan to explore contains organic vapors, acid gases, or mercury vapor among other things, you need some activated carbon cartridges designed for the type of contaminant. Since it’s uneconomical to stock on each type, I would get a set of multi-purpose OV/CL/HC/SD/HS/HF/CD/AM/ME/FM/P100 filters. Unlike regular P100 filters, these have limited life once opened. They have expiration dates and once opened, they should be stored in sealed bags, like ZipLoc. After a few months, they should be considered ineffective. Higher the contaminant exposure, the sooner the cartridges will saturate. Read the enclosed manual. If you think you spent the useful life, throw them out and consider these one or two time use items. Just to be clear, these are for very special occasions and regular P100 filters will suffice for everyday use.
So where can I buy these? Your local hardware store should have them on hand. If for some reason they don’t, you can always purchase them online; I recommend purchasing from Approved Gas Masks.
Finally, it has to fit for it to work. They come in three basic sizes; small, medium and large. To test one out, first put it on. Put your hand over the cartridges and try to breathe in. If the mask fits securely on your face, you shouldn’t be able to breath at all. Next is to try breathing out. Put your hand over the black vent in the bottom middle and try to breathe out and you shouldn’t be able to push any air out. If you can breathe in or out at all, its not fitting right. It may seem obvious, but it does no good if the bad air will get in due to an ill fitted mask.