Air Monitoring

Practical Testing of Breathing Air for BS EN12021

Feb 08 2017 Read 1117 Times

The Dangers of Contaminants in Breathing Air

Compressed air used for breathing equipment may contain contaminants that can be harmful and have a damaging effect to persons wearing the breathing equipment. The purity and quality of compressed air breathing gases is regulated by BS EN12021 to ensure that the breathing air feed equipment is tested and deemed safe to be used as breathing air.

It is imperative that breathing air is tested according to the standard and thoroughly for contaminants in compressed breathing air. Excessive levels of CO, CO2, oil and water mist can cause the user to become lightheaded, nauseous and dizzy. High levels of contaminants can be caused by saturated filters or incorrect compressor servicing but not limited to these factors. These factors would not necessarily be picked up in the initial stages of servicing, adding emphasis to the importance of compressed air testing.

CO or CO2 cannot be detected by humans, unless by some form of electronic detection, as they don’t give off any taste or odour. In addition to potential health risks, contaminated air can also create problems such as inefficient filtration which in the long run can lead to unnecessary costs.

Safely Testing Contaminants in Breathing Air

In order to ensure compliance with BS EN12021, regular tests must be carried out on compressed air lines to effectively test the purity of the breathing air. Tests for harmful substances should be carried out at least once every three months, or in accordance with the regulation, unless the piece of breathing air equipment is to be moved or can be seen to be contaminated; then another test should be carried out. The results of the tests must be recorded and documented under requirements of BS EN12021.

There are four main equipment types which fall under the guidelines for testing the quality of compressed air:

  1. Respiratory protective devices; this includes self-contained underwater breathing equipment (SCUBA) -
  2. Respiratory protective devices; compressed airline breathing apparatus (and for use underwater)
  3. Respiratory protective devices for escape; self-contained open-circuit compressed breathing apparatus, this includes a full face mask, mouthpiece assembly or hoods.
  4. Compressor; the source of the compressed air is just as important as the equipment that is being used.

To help you carry out the regular tests, as required by the BS EN12021, a1-cbiss have designed a breathing air quality test kit that comes with everything required for an ‘on the spot’ test. At 4kg and conveniently packaged in an aluminium casing.


The AIRQUAL-1 is rugged, lightweight and does not require charging, meaning that it can even be used in situations where power isn’t accessible.

The AIRQUAL-1 breathing air quality test kit has been designed for use with the Gastec Airtec Tubes and is supplied complete with oil mist, water vapour, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) detector tubes.

This comprehensive breathing air quality test kit is compact, easy to operate and can be used to indicate the level of contamination, as well as, operating flow, temperature and pressure.

In addition to the detection of the compressed air contaminants listed above, AIRQUAL-1 also features an oxygen detector allowing for constant real-time display of the oxygen content within the compressed air system.

For more information or to request an on-site demonstration of the AIRQUAL-1 Breathing Air Quality Test Kit, contact a1-cbiss on +44(0)151 321 0278.

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