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March 16, 2004
NIOSH Update:

NIOSH Certifies First Air-Purifying Respirators for Protection Against CBRN Exposures

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued the first two certifications under its program for testing and certifying for air-purifying respirators intended to protect emergency responders from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) exposures.

NIOSH issued the certifications to the MSA Millenium APR, manufactured by Mine Safety Appliances Co. (MSA), Pittsburgh, Pa., and the 3M FR-M40, manufactured by 3M Corp., Maplewood, Minn. The certifications were issued on March 12, 2004, and March 15, 2004, respectively. The MSA Millenium respirator is certified under approval number TC-14G-0270, and the 3MFR-M40 is certified under approval number TC-14G-0271.

The certifications signify that the respirators are expected to protect firefighters and other emergency responders from CBRN-related respiratory exposures. NIOSH based its determinations on positive results from rigorous laboratory tests, evaluation of product specifications, and assessment of the manufacturers' quality control procedures. NIOSH tested and evaluated the devices under criteria that it announced in March 2003.

NIOSH has established testing requirements and certification criteria for four different types of respirators to be used in CBRN environments. In addition to air-purifying respirators for use by emergency responders in CBRN environments, the other three types are self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for use by emergency responders in CBRN environments, self-contained escape respirators for use by the general working population in exiting CBRN environments, and air-purifying escape respirators for use by the general working population in exiting CBRN environments. NIOSH issued its first certifications for SCBA for use by emergency responders against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear respiratory exposures in 2002.

Under other criteria established in the 1970s, NIOSH also tests and certifies respirators for industrial use in traditional work settings such as factories, plants, and construction sites, where the types and concentrations of potential air contaminants to which employees may be occupationally exposed are typically known.

Generally, SCBAs provide a higher level of protection than air-purifying respirators. They are used in situations where the types and concentrations of contaminants in the air have not yet been identified or measured. Air-purifying respirators can be used once the potential exposures are understood and are determined to be at lower concentrations.

NIOSH is drafting detailed guidance for use of air-purifying respirators for use against CBRN exposures. As a standard practice, air-purifying respirators should not be used in atmospheres containing hazardous concentrations of contaminants that are immediately dangerous to life and health, or in oxygen-deficient atmospheres (those containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen). If unknown or high levels of hazardous contaminants are encountered after the APR wearer enters an area, standard practice calls for the wearer to immediately leave the area.

Development of the certification program involved broad national support and collaboration by many agencies, organizations, and stakeholders. NIOSH is continuing to test and evaluate other air-purifying respirators and SCBAs. It also is developing similar criteria for testing, evaluating, and certifying other types of respirators, such as powered air-purifying respirators, for use by emergency responders.

NIOSH certification allows the manufacturers to label the approved devices as NIOSH-certified for occupational use by emergency responders. It does not constitute a commercial endorsement of the products.

All new certifications for air-purifying respirators for CBRN will be posted, upon issuance, at www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/cbrnaprcheck.html

For additional information on NIOSH's program for testing and certifying respirators for use by emergency responders against CBRN exposures, call toll-free 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or visit the NIOSH web page at www.cdc.gov/npptl

 
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