So you may be wondering… can I actually breathe compressed air from my “normal” compressor? Or are there special compressors readily available that generate compressed air specifically for breathing?

You may just be relatively interested, or you may be a keen scuba diver pondering the question of what sort of air compressor you should be filling your scuba tank with? And whether there are any potential dangers of using the wrong type. When looking for a compressor, you need one which is the right size for your application.

This article will provide you with answers to all these questions pondering your mind, and I’ll pick out a couple of products that I would recommend for breathing air.

Table of Contents

Using Compressed Air for Breathing Air?

It is possible to use compressed air for breathing air, but not the typical type of air compressor you’re thinking of. Air from a typical air compressor is certainly not for breathing. Before we go any further, I would like to advise you to not breathe air from any typical air compressors. This type of air is not suitable for human breathing unless it has had sufficient and significant air treatment to make it breathable.

There are air compressors specifically designed for breathing air, and you must only use these industrial breathing air compressors if you require air.

Breathing Air Compressor

Finding sufficient air treatment equipment to apply to an airline from an industrial compressor that will prepare the air for breathing is possible, but it doesn’t necessarily remove every contaminate from the airflow. Components that are necessary for cleaning the compressed air to breathing quality include but is certainly not limited to:

  • air dryer – this will remove the water vapor
  • coalescent filter – this will remove oil mist from the air
  • finer element 5-micron air filter – this will remove finer particles from the air and water
  • general-purpose 40-micron air filter – this will remove the larger particles and free water

A very useful source for ensuring you prepare the air properly, with information on what air preparation is necessary to use compressed air for breathing air and other standards, is the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) website.

Otherwise, Mako provides breathing air compressors that offer several different models to meet your specific breathing air system needs.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution, they offer economical EconoAir and compact Air charge models. Amongst these are a variety of models for varying requirements.

Another very reliable and dependable unit you can purchase from the industry is a Bauer compressor. They provide high-pressure breathing air compressor systems. All Bauer units produce air quality of CGA Grade E breathing air suitable for the Fire industry, SCUBA, Military, and Industrial use. Please visit the breathing air systems website as they’re the largest distributor of these Bauer Compressors.

Breathing Air Products

If you’re looking for something to use whilst spraying paint or chemicals, so that you can avoid them entering your lungs, breathing masks can be a very suitable choice. I will recommend the following breathing masks which are available on Amazon:

NASUM Dust Face Cover, for Painting, Dust, Particulate, Machine Polishing, Welding and Other Work Protection, with Safety Goggle & 2Pcs Filter Cotton Black

The NASUM Dust Face Cover is a great mask for a wide array of applications. It’s suited to sawing, demolition, grinding, and renovation work amongst others.

Its design boasts an effective filter box that can filter greater than 99.95% of particles. This reusable cover has detachable filter boxes that effectively and comfortably protect you against certain particulates of a specific concentration. It is very well suited for paint, chemicals, and environmental technology protection.

The flow valve in front of the face cover can effectively reduce heat and moisture to promote breathing and reduce the risk of user fatigue.

Respirator Mask Reusable Half Face Cover Gas Mask with Safety Glasses, Paint Face Cover Face Shield with Filters for Painting, Organic Vapor, Welding, Polishing, Woodworking and Other Work Protection

The Ruiqier Dust Gas Mask is another great mask for numerous applications. It can be used in work areas with chemicals, glass, metal, paint, and agriculture. It serves as a great protector against dust particles in lots of mechanical work such as welding, sewing, and grinding.

This professional respirator boasts a dual filtration system that can effectively block 96% of organic vapors, fumes, dust, and other particles in the air. The mask provides a comfortable easy-to-adjust headband suitable for most head types, with a detachable filter box making it easy and quick to disassemble.

The glasses provide 3 functions of being explosion-proof, anti-fog, and dust-proof, making this mask very convenient for your work uses.

I’ve just picked out these 2 products from Amazon based on common work applications. They will certainly help to eliminate particulates entering your breathing system. If you are instead still contemplating breathing air from a mask that is being supplied by an air compressor that hasn’t been treated, please don’t! You are not only risking your health, but you’re certainly risking your life.

Why Should I Avoid Breathing Compressed Air?

To answer this simply, avoid inhaling chemicals and protect your own safety. Compressed air that comes from industrial air compressors is really not suitable for breathing.

Industrial air compressors have lubrication within their systems which play an important part in the compressors’ life duration, helping to reduce the need for maintenance and therefore also providing cost benefits. Some of that lubrication can get into the air stream within the system, into the tank, and then also into the airlines heading towards the outlet.

A lot of air compressors use oil as a lubricant. Consequently, this oil could make it into the airstream… now, you don’t want to inhale the oil, right? For more information on oil for your air compressor, please visit our page on what is the best air compressor oil.

There is an intake filter located on the compressor pump which aims to remove as much of the debris from the air as possible, but it does not successfully remove all of it. Dust can very commonly enter the compressor system and some may pass through the filter and into the tank and then the air stream… again, I’m sure you’d prefer not to inhale dust at choice.

The air receiver tanks inside coating can deteriorate over time. With this deterioration comes the possibility that the coating can get into the air stream. We have a page on cleaning the inside of your air compressor tank which may help reduce this deterioration.

Air compressors also generate water from the air as it is compressed before entering the tank. Within the tank, this water may mix with the dust or other contaminates and create a mixture that will enter the air stream and your lungs, if you decide to use an air compressor for breathing. Advice on how to drain your compressor tank can be found here.

Are you using a workshop air compressor to paint and you want to be able to breathe air other than that of the paint fumes? Well certainly don’t disconnect this air compressor and use that. Any time a compressed air-driven paint or even chemical spray is used, this paint or chemical enters the airflow. Even just using these sprays will cause the compressed air, paint, or chemical mixture to be inhaled through your mouth and nose.

OSHA states on their website: “Hazardous breathing conditions exist in many routine industrial operations, such as chemical manufacturing, hospitals, abrasive blasting, paint spraying, industrial cleaning, and arc welding. In these and other operations that introduce contaminants into the workplace, supplied-air respirators, air filtration systems, and carbon monoxide monitors are frequently used for worker protection.”

They also state: “The rulemaking record for the Respiratory Protection Standard clearly justifies adopting the requirement that air breathed by employees must have an oxygen content of at least 19.5 percent. A lesser concentration of oxygen in employees’ breathing air could endanger them physiologically and diminish their ability to cope with other hazards that may be present in the workplace.”

Air Compressors That Produce Breathing Air

Air compressors that are designed to specifically produce air for breathing are readily available. They are not industrial-purpose compressors, so they will be a lot different from those you may use to. Their purpose is solely for breathing, not operating tools.

Here’s an example of a breathing air compressor available on Amazon right now

HPDAVV High Pressure Air Compressor

A very common application of air compressors that produce breathing air, is in the filling of scuba diving tanks. Scuba divers carry tanks on their backs containing breathing air that is produced by special air compressors. Firefighters also used air compressors to produce breathing air so they’re able to tackle large fires without inhaling noxious gasses and toxic fumes.

People working in coal mines may also require breathing air, and even within certain industries, air compressors are used for breathing to provide general safety conditions.

Using An Airtank For Breathing Air

This technique is commonly used by scuba divers and firefighters. The best type of air tanks for breathing air are high-pressure tanks. You should not use a general-purpose air compressor to fill those tanks however, they require special air compressors designed for breathing.

The high-pressure tanks use these unique compressors to pack a great amount of air into fairly small and portable single or double air tanks. Scuba experts are best to advise you what type of air you should use, the regulators, and suitable masks to accompany the tanks.

Can you breathe compressed air?

By this point, I should have provided you with the answer to this question. To summarise this article, yes you can breathe compressed air, but only if it has been treated correctly or if it comes from a compressor specifically designed for breathing.

I have provided you with breathing air compressor manufacturers, and alternative options to take if you’re simply requiring breathing air whilst conducting grinding, painting, or similar jobs.

Please be careful, compressed air is very dangerous and should not be played around with. Always look for standards, safety measures, and advice before coming to a final verdict on any air compressor-related decisions you must make.