Mine Safety Appliances Boosts Radiation-Mask Output

Mine Safety Appliances Co., a maker of masks used to protect against radioactive vapors, has boosted production of respirators for use in Japan as the country fights to contain damaged nuclear reactors.

Production has increased, with two U.S. plants making thousands of additional masks and parts, said Mark Deasy, a spokesman for the company based in Cranberry Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh, today in an interview. Mine Safety Appliances has average monthly sales of $12 million for air-purifying respirators, said Deasy, who couldn’t provide specific production figures.

Mine Safety Appliances makes respirators and cartridges for use against radioactive vapors and particulates. The company has a unit in Tokyo, consisting of a light assembly plant and about 30 workers.

“We are trying to understand what the longer-term need is,” Deasy said.

Mine Safety rose 39 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $35.61 at 4:16 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares gained 14 percent this year.

The company has responded to an emergency request from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for respirators and other products, according to a March 18 Mine Safety employee memo. Also, Mine Safety responded to a request for 2,500 respirators and cartridges from Areva SA for donation to Japan, and the products have been shipped, Deasy said.

Cleanup Workers

Areva, the Paris-based manufacturer of fuel rods used in some Japanese reactors, bought the 2,500 Mine Safety masks for use by cleanup workers, spokeswoman Kelly Cousineau said in an interview.

Mine Safety is keeping up with demand and has established a team to respond to the immediate request and assess longer-term needs. The respirators are manufactured in a plant in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and a facility outside of Pittsburgh, Deasy said.

Masks that protect against radioactive vapors are one portion of the company’s sales for air-purifying respirators. Other types of masks in that category include respirators for general industry, masks for painters and dust and pollen masks for maintenance workers. Air-purifying respirators represented 14 percent of 2009 company sales, according to Mine Safety’s annual report.

“A large part of that is not in the nuclear business,” Deasy said.

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