Respiratory protection offered by a particulate respirator is a function of the filter efficiency and face seal leakage. A previous study in our laboratory measured the filter penetration and total inward leakage (TIL) of 20-1000 nm size particles for N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) using a breathing manikin. The results showed relatively higher filter penetration and TIL value under different leak sizes and flow rates at the most penetrating particle size (MPPS), approximately 45 nm for electrostatic FFRs,and approximately 150 nm for the same FFRs after charge removal. This indicates an advantage of mechanical filters over electrostatic filters rated for similar filter efficiencies in providing respiratory protection in nanoparticle workplaces. To better understand the influence of the MPPS, the filtration performance of commonly used one N95 and one N100 FFR models, and four P100 canister/cartridge models were measured with monodisperse NaCl aerosols, and polydisperse NaCl aerosols employed in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certification test method. As expected, the polydisperse aerosol penetration was below 5% for the N95 FFR, and below 0.03% for the N100 FFR and P100 canister/cartridge filters. Monodisperse aerosol penetration results showed a MPPS of approximately 40 nm for both the N95 and N100 FFRs. All four P100 canister/cartridge filters had a MPPS of =150 nm, similar to expectations for mechanical filters. The P100 canister/cartridge filters showed lower penetration values for different size nanoparticles than the N100 FFRs. The results indicate that a mechanical filter would offer a relatively higher filtration performance for nanoparticles than an electrostatic counterpart rated for the same filter efficiency. Overall, the results obtained in the study suggest that MPPS should be considered as a key factor in the development of respirator standards and recommendations for protection against nanoparticles.
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