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A comparison of facemask and respirator filtration test methods.

Rengasamy S; Shaffer R; Williams B; Smit S
J Occup Environ Hyg 2017 Feb; 14(2):92-103
NIOSH published a Federal Register Notice to explore the possibility of incorporating FDA required filtration tests for surgical masks (SMs) in the 42 CFR Part 84 respirator certification process. There have been no published studies comparing the filtration efficiency test methods used for NIOSH certification of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (N95 FFRs) with those used by the FDA for clearance of SMs. To address this issue, filtration efficiencies of "N95 FFRs" including six N95 FFR models and three surgical N95 FFR models, and three SM models were measured using the NIOSH NaCl aerosol test method, and FDA required particulate filtration efficiency (PFE) and bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) methods, and viral filtration efficiency (VFE) method. Five samples of each model were tested using each method. Both PFE and BFE tests were done using unneutralized particles as per FDA guidance document. PFE was measured using 0.1 µm size polystyrene latex particles and BFE with approximately 3.0 µm size particles containing Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. VFE was obtained using approximately 3.0 µm size particles containing phiX 174 as the challenge virus and Escherichia coli as the host. Results showed that the efficiencies measured by the NIOSH NaCl method for "N95 FFRs" were from 98.15 to 99.68% compared to 99.74 to 99.99% for PFE, 99.62 to 99.9% for BFE and 99.8 to 99.9% for VFE methods. Efficiencies by the NIOSH NaCl method were significantly (p = <0.05) lower than the other methods. SMs showed lower efficiencies (54.72 to 88.40%) than "N95 FFRs" measured by the NIOSH NaCl method, while PFE, BFE and VFE methods produced no significant difference. The above results show that the NIOSH NaCl method is relatively conservative and is able to identify poorly performing filtration devices. The higher efficiencies obtained using PFE, BFE and VFE methods show that adding these supplemental particle penetration methods will not improve respirator certification. <a href=""target="_blank">Erratum: J Occup Environ Hyg 2017 Feb; 14(4:D64)</a>.
Face masks; Respirators; Filtration; Respirator testing; Models; Aerosols; Particulates; Bacteria; Sampling; Author Keywords: Bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE); N95 respirator; NIOSH NaCl efficiency; particle filtration efficiency (PFE); surgical N95 respirator; viral filtration efficiency (VFE)
Samy Rengasamy, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Personal Protectove Technology Laboratory, 626 Cochrans Mill Road, Pittsburgh, PA; 15236
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Journal Article
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NIOSH Division
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Page last reviewed: November 6, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division