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How does breathing frequency affect the performance of an N95 filtering facepiece respirator and a surgical mask against surrogates of viral particles?

He-X; Reponen-T; McKay-R; Grinshpun-SA
J Occup Environ Hyg 2014 Mar; 11(3):178-185
Breathing frequency (breaths/min) differs among individuals and levels of physical activity. Particles enter respirators through two principle penetration pathways: faceseal leakage and filter penetration. However, it is unknown how breathing frequency affects the overall performance of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and surgical masks (SMs) against viral particles, as well as other health-relevant submicrometer particles. A FFR and SM were tested on a breathing manikin at four mean inspiratory flows (MIFs) (15, 30, 55, and 85 L/min) and five breathing frequencies (10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 breaths/min). Filter penetration (Pfilter) and total inward leakage (TIL) were determined for the tested respiratory protection devices against sodium chloride (NaCl) aerosol particles in the size range of 20 to 500 nm. "Faceseal leakage-to-filter" (FLTF) penetration ratios were calculated. Both MIF and breathing frequency showed significant effects (p < 0.05) on Pfilter and TIL. Increasing breathing frequency increased TIL for the N95 FFR whereas no clear trends were observed for the SM. Increasing MIF increased Pfilter and decreased TIL resulting in decreasing FLTF ratio. Most of FLTF ratios were >1, suggesting that the faceseal leakage was the primary particle penetration pathway at various breathing frequencies. Breathing frequency is another factor (besides MIF) that can significantly affect the performance of N95 FFRs, with higher breathing frequencies increasing TIL. No consistent trend of increase or decrease of TIL with either MIF or breathing frequency was observed for the tested SM. To potentially extend these findings beyond the manikin/breathing system used, future studies are needed to fully understand the mechanism causing the breathing frequency effect on the performance of respiratory protection devices on human subjects.
Breathing; Air-purifying-respirators; Respirators; Respiratory-equipment; Face-masks; Performance-capability; Equipment-reliability; Filters; Filtration; Medical-equipment; Microorganisms; Aerosol-particles; Simulation-methods; Testing-equipment; Author Keywords: breathing frequency; N95; respirator; surgical mask; manikinEquipment-reliability; Equipment-design; Electronic-equipment; Underground-mining; Milling-industry; Safety-equipment; Hazards; Coal-mining; Mining-industry; Exposure-levels; Explosive-hazards; Risk-factors; Fire-hazards; Safety-measures; Safety-equipment; Author Keywords: Batteries; Explosion protection; Fires; Hazardous areas; Intrinsic safety; Lithium-ion; Mining industry; Standardization
Sergey A. Grinshpun, POB 670056, 3223 Eden Ave., University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-T42-OH-008432; Grant-Number-T01-OH-008431; M112014
Issue of Publication
Source Name
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Performing Organization
University of Cincinnati
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division