Operating within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal institute specifically dedicated to generating new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and to transferring that knowledge into practice for the betterment of workers. Because personal protective equipment (PPE) plays an important role in keeping many workers within various industries safe while performing their professional duties, The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) was created to be the division of NIOSH charged with the mission of preventing disease, injury, and death for the millions of working men and women relying this equipment. To accomplish this mission, NPPTL conducts scientific research, develops guidance and authoritative recommendations, disseminates information, and responds to requests for workplace health hazard evaluations.

NPPTL was established in 2001, at the request of Congress. The creation of the Laboratory was in response to a recognized need for improved PPE and focused research into personal protective technologies (PPT).

“It has been brought to the Committee’s attention the need for design, testing and state-of-the-art equipment for this nation’s… miners, firefighters, healthcare, agricultural and industrial workers… (Also) the Committee encourages NIOSH to carry out research, testing and related activities aimed at protecting workers who respond to public health needs in the event of a terrorist incident. The Committee encourages CDC to organize and implement a national personal protective equipment laboratory.”

– Senate Report. 106-293 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2001 Filed Under Authority of the Order of the Senate January 6, 1999

Respiratory protection is the cornerstone of NPPTL’s efforts. One of the primary functions of the Laboratory is to carry out testing procedures and recommend respirators for approval, therefore ensuring a level of standard filter efficiency for all respirators used within a U.S. workplace setting. The National Personal Protective Laboratory Respirator Certification program exists to increase the level of worker protection from airborne chemicals and vapors and therefore reduce the amount of worker illnesses contracted by this cause.

In addition to respirators, other personal protective equipment includes chemical-resistant clothing, hearing protectors, gloves, safety goggles and glasses, hard hats, sensors to detect hazardous substances, and communication devices used for safety deployment of emergency workers. NPPTL addresses all of the above in order to examine exposures to inhalation hazards, dermal hazards, and any other hazardous environmental threat within an occupational setting.

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2020