Flavorings-Related Lung Disease: Personal Protective Equipment

Green coffee beans in a burlap bag


Freshly roasted coffee beans in a large storage container.

Coffee Processing Facilities

Workplace Interventions

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the least effective means for controlling employee exposures. Proper use of PPE requires a comprehensive program, and calls for a high level of employer and employee involvement and commitment to be effective.

  1. If air sampling results show levels of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione above the NIOSH RELs, respirator use is recommended until air sampling evidence shows a reduction in air concentrations through engineering and administrative controls. Respirators should be NIOSH-certified with organic vapor cartridges and particulate filters. The level or assigned protection factor (APF) of the respirator will depend on the air sampling results. A respirator’s APF refers to the maximal level of protectiveness a specific respirator design can achieve under laboratory conditions. For reference, half-face air-purifying respirators have an APF of 10, and full-face air-purifying respirators have an APF of 50. There are powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) that have APFs of 25, 50, or 1000. The OSHA APFs can be found in Table 1 of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=12716&p_table=STANDARDSexternal icon).
  2. Because air levels of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione may fluctuate from day to day based on production schedules, we recommend air sampling for diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione over multiple days to ensure the APF for the respirator used is protective on all work days.
  3. Workers should be medically cleared to wear fit-tested respirators. Good respirator fit testing helps ensure that a worker achieves protection as close to the APF as possible. A fit factor is the ratio of contaminants outside versus contaminants inside the respirator facepiece as actually measured during a quantitative fit test. Appendix A of the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) details the mandatory fit-test protocols. For tight-fitting respirators (such as half-face and full-face negative-pressure air-purifying respirators) also ensure that workers perform a “user seal check” (positive and negative pressure checks) each time they wear their respirator. The procedure is outlined in Appendix B1 of the OSHA respiratory protection standard.
  4. Respiratory protection programs should meet the requirements of the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
Page last reviewed: January 27, 2016