CDC logoSafer Healthier People  CDC HomeCDC SearchCDC Health Topics A-Z
NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Skip navigation links Search NIOSH  |  NIOSH Home  |  NIOSH Topics  |  Site Index  |  Databases and Information Resources  |  NIOSH Products  |  Contact Us

NIOSH Respiratory Diseases Research Program

Evidence Package for the National Academies' Review 2006-2007

11.2 Respirator Standards Development

previous 11.1 Respirator Approval Program | 11.3 Certified Product Investigation Program next


Beginning in 1999, the respirator program began to work towards standards development for respirators used for protections against a full range of expected chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorist threats. This process involved partnerships with other federal agencies (OSHA, DOD, FBI, National Institute of Justice, National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST], Department of Homeland Security [DHS]), manufacturers (International Safety Equipment Association) and emergency response organizations (International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association [NFPA]).

The development effort has been done using a publicly visible process, including communication methods such as the Internet and special public meetings.  Copies of the public meeting presentations, as well as concept papers that explain the evolution of the different standards, and the standards them selves, are available through the NPPTL Web site. Public comment from the stakeholder community has been solicited by NIOSH and formally captured in a public accessible docket.


Public meetings are held to discuss standards concepts for these respirator classes.  Presentations from these meetings are also available. Concepts, standards (when fully developed), and other documents will be posted when they become available.


Through FY 2005, NIOSH certified additional commercial respirators which increased the number of CBRN approved respirators to 67. 

 Intermediate Outcomes

  • The NIOSH standards development and respirator certification programs have led to an increase in the national inventory of CBRN capabilities to protect emergency response personnel against the respiratory hazards associated with a terrorist event. Neither industrial nor military respirators provided protection from the entire compliment of potential CBRN agents. Under federal regulations, emergency responders are required to use NIOSH certified respirators for respiratory protection as part of their respiratory protection program.
  • As of December, 2005, NPPTL estimates that at least 46 percent of career (trained professional) firefighters from fire departments classified as all career have CBRN respirators available.
  • NIOSH CBRN respirator standards were among the first adopted by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS now uses these standards to award grant monies for the purchase of PPE for the first responder community.
  • Use of NIOSH Certified CBRN Respirators, as part of a personal protective ensemble, has been incorporated by the NFPA into its NFPA 1500, 1991, and 1994 standards.
  • The British Standards Institution has contacted NPPTL to discuss the potential inclusion of NIOSH CBRN respirator standard requirements into the British standards.
  • Use of CBRN respirators by emergency responders has been endorsed by the InterAgency Board for Equipment Interoperability and Standardization.

What’s Ahead

The partnerships established as part of the standards development program have enabled NIOSH to gain nationally based support of the standards. The CBRN respirator standards have defined performance criteria in response to terrorism incidents based on the continued threats.

A key performance measure in the OMB PART evaluation of NIOSH is to increase the “percent of firefighters and first responders with access to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear respirators.” Prompt, comprehensive CBRN respirator certification will continue to be necessary to ensure the supply pipeline from respirator manufacturers needed to achieve this goal.

NIOSH is continuing to test and evaluate other escape respirators submitted by manufacturers for certification under this program. It also is developing similar criteria for approving other types of respirators, such as powered, air-purifying devices, for use by emergency responders. The approvals are posted on the NIOSH Web page at Other approvals will be announced and posted as they occur.