The role of workplace testing of respirators as a condition of certification for the Federally mandated NIOSH Respiratory Protective Equipment Certification Program was discussed. An emphasis was placed on the technical feasibility and appropriateness from a scientific standpoint. According to the author, field performance testing is not worth the effort required because of the great experimental difficulties required to obtain accurate and meaningful field results and the high variability and nonnormality of measured performance. Standardized simulated workplace testing, conducted in a laboratory, should be used for more complex types of respiratory protective systems. Workplace efficacy testing may be appropriate for respiratory protection systems that are more complex and that may exhibit unexpected behavior in certain use situations. The development of a consumer information database identifying problems in the field use of all types of respirators, but particularly complex systems, would be useful to manufacturers, regulators, users, and researchers. Consideration should be given to the use of computer models to evaluate respirator performance under a wide variety of exposure conditions.
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