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NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

	worker wearing a respirator

Input: Emerging Issues

The top priorities of the program have focused around providing effective NIOSH-certified respiratory protection equipment for all workers. The four top priority research areas are identified here.

CBRN Protections

The terrorism threat has resulted in an increased emphasis on incorporating chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protections into the respirator certification process and national protective clothing standards. Beginning in 1999, NIOSH, NPPTL, through establishing partnerships with other federal agencies (OSHA, DOD, FBI, NIJ, NIST, DHS), manufacturers (ISEA), and emergency response organizations (IAFF, IAFC, NFPA), lead a standards development effort for respirators used for protection against a full range of expected CBRN terrorist threats. The development effort has used a publicly visible process, including communication methods such as the Internet and special public meetings. Copies of the public meeting presentations, as well as concept papers that explain the evolution of the different standards and the standards themselves, are available through the NPPTL website. Public comment from the stakeholder community has been solicited by NIOSH and formally captured in a publicly accessible docket.

The NIOSH standards development and respirator certification programs have led to an increase in the national inventory of CBRN capabilities to protect emergency response personnel against the respiratory hazards associated with a terrorist event. Neither industrial nor military respirators provided protection from the entire complement of potential CBRN agents. Under federal regulations, emergency responders are required to use NIOSH-certified respirators for respiratory protection as part of their respiratory protection program.

  • As of December, 2005, the PPT Program estimates that at least 46% of career (trained professional) fire fighters from fire departments with 100% career firefighters have CBRN respirators available.
  • Through FY 2005, NIOSH certified additional commercial respirators which increased the number of CBRN approved respirator models to 67.

The partnerships established as part of the standards development program have enabled NIOSH to gain nationally-based support of the standards. The CBRN respirator standards have defined performance criteria in response to terrorism incidents based on the continued threats. Projects related to CBRN standards include:

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness

The threat of pandemic influenza has resulted in an increased emphasis on pandemic influenza preparedness and the personal protective technologies necessary to sustain operations in the event of pandemic influenza. CDC estimates that in the event of a severe influenza pandemic, approximately 90 million N95 respirators would be needed by the healthcare sector for a 42-day outbreak. The projects associated with Pandemic Influenza Preparedness include the following:

Mine-Related Research

Recent mine disasters and the importance of effective protections for all mine workers as emphasized by the Miner Act of 2006 have reemphasized the significance of effective emergency PPT for all mine workers.


The rapid growth of nanotechnology has increased the amount of engineered nanoparticles in the industrial workplace. To address concerns, the PPT Program has identified a priority to research and assess the efficiency of personal protective technologies against nanoparticles. The PPT-related nanotechnology initiatives are summarized here: