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As a decorator I have used many types of face masks in my career and have found some face masks were good and others much less so.  The cheap disposable dust masks which I have seen people wearing on the news reports about the latest influenza pandemic or city smog crisis are in my opinion ineffective, for I find they fail to stop the dust particles created when I am decorating form penetrating the inner mask area and therefore my lungs.   The problem with these types of masks is their inability to create an air-proof seal between them and my face, particularly around the nose and under the chin.

That said it is always better to wear an ill-fitting or less-effective dust mask than none at all, as any form of protection from potentially harmful dust and fibre particles is better than none.   

However, there is little point wearing a dust mask that does not protect you from the potentially harmful particles, masks must fit the contours of the face and generate an effective, continuous seal against the skin.   The seal around the nose is the most difficult to form, and for those of us who wear glasses a broken seal here often results in steamed up lenses which can be both annoying and dangerous.  

Face masks cannot give you effective protection against dust particles, but they can also protect you from vapours such as paint fumes, however to achieve this level of protection, it is essential a better quality and vapour specific mask be purchased and then correctly fitted.  The mask I personally use that matches these requirements is the 3M Maintenance Free Respirator 4251 - Dust Mask, you can read more about this mask on my product review post, 3M 4251 Respirator.  

3M Maintenance Free  Respirator 4251