Respirator Performance against Nanoparticles under Simulated Workplace Activities

Source: Evanly Vo, Ziqing Zhuang, Matthew Horvatin, Yuewei Liu, Xinjian He, and Samy Rengasamy, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Volume 59, Issue 8, October 2015
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From the abstract:
Filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and elastomeric half-mask respirators (EHRs) are commonly used by workers for protection against potentially hazardous particles, including engineered nanoparticles. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the performance of these types of respirators against 10–400nm particles using human subjects exposed to NaCl aerosols under simulated workplace activities. Simulated workplace protection factors (SWPFs) were measured for eight combinations of respirator models (2 N95 FFRs, 2 P100 FFRs, 2 N95 EHRs, and 2 P100 EHRs) worn by 25 healthy test subjects (13 females and 12 males) with varying face sizes. Before beginning a SWPF test for a given respirator model, each subject had to pass a quantitative fit test. Each SWPF test was performed using a protocol of six exercises for 3min each: (i) normal breathing, (ii) deep breathing, (iii) moving head side to side, (iv) moving head up and down, (v) bending at the waist, and (vi) a simulated laboratory-vessel cleaning motion. Two scanning mobility particle sizers were used simultaneously to measure the upstream (outside the respirator) and downstream (inside the respirator) test aerosol; SWPF was then calculated as a ratio of the upstream and downstream particle concentrations. In general, geometric mean SWPF (GM-SWPF) was highest for the P100 EHRs, followed by P100 FFRs, N95 EHRs, and N95 FFRs. This trend holds true for nanoparticles (10–100nm), larger size particles (100–400nm), and the ‘all size’ range (10–400nm). All respirators provided better or similar performance levels for 10–100nm particles as compared to larger 100–400nm particles. This study found that class P100 respirators provided higher SWPFs compared to class N95 respirators (P < 0.05) for both FFR and EHR types. All respirators provided expected performance (i.e. fifth percentile SWPF > 10) against all particle size ranges tested.