NIOSH Policy for Respirator Sealing Surfaces and Facial Hair
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Letter to All Respirator Manufacturers
Issue Date: October 2, 2006
From: Heinz W. Ahlers, Chief, Technology Evaluation Branch, National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
Subject: NIOSH Policy for Respirator Sealing Surfaces and Facial Hair
It has been brought to the attention of NIOSH through phone calls and emails from respirator users and manufacturers that some respirator manufacturers may not understand what NIOSH defines as the sealing surface for respirators and consequently are inappropriately marketing respirators for users with facial hair.
Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator, such as beards, sideburns, or mustaches will interfere with respirators that rely on a tight facepiece fit to achieve maximum protection. The areas of the skin, which contact the face or neck seal and nosecup seal, must be free of any hair.
If a unit has been approved with a nosecup in place and has passed NIOSH CO2 and fogging tests using the nosecup, then the nosecup must not come in contact with facial hair, even if there is another seal being used as the primary seal (such as a neck seal). Specifically, respirator configurations using hood-style facepieces that have been tested and certified by NIOSH using a nose cup require a clean-shaven sealing surface at the nosecup.
Any respirator manufacturer making false claims such as advertising a tight fitting, full facepiece or hooded SCBA unit that is configured with a nose cup, for users with facial hair, may be subject to rescission of NIOSH approval.