Performance of Two Respiratory Protective Devices Used by Home-Attending Health-Care Workers (A Pilot Study)
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Performance of Two Respiratory Protective Devices Used by Home-Attending Health-Care Workers (A Pilot Study)

Filetype[PDF-356.14 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Occup Environ Hyg
    • Description:

      This pilot study aimed at determining the Workplace Protection Factor (WPF) for respiratory protective devices widely used by health-care workers to reduce exposure to potentially hazardous aerosols when attending patients in their homes. Two devices were tested, an N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) and a surgical mask (SM).


      Three home-attending health-care workers were recruited, medically cleared and fit tested. At the workplace, the aerosol concentrations outside (Cout) and inside (Cin) of the tested respiratory protective device worn by a subject were measured using two simultaneously operating P-Trak condensation particle counters within the particle size range of approximately 20–1,000 nm. Real-time and integrated (time-weighted average, TWA) values of WPF = Cout/Cin were determined.


      This pilot study demonstrated that the WPF of the tested N95 FFR consistently exceeded that of the SM. The WPFTWA(C) values calculated for the entire test time (based on the TWA aerosol concentration values) ranged from 29 to 40 and 2 to 9, respectively. In all cases, the N95 FFR provided protection above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) assigned protection factor of 10, whereas the SM often offered little or essentially no protection against the measured sub-micrometer aerosol particles. For both devices, the protection level was found to depend on activity. For example, the WPFTWA(C) for one subject wearing the N95 FFR was 56 during normal activity but fell almost 70% during tracheal suctioning. It is explicable considering that different procedures implemented by health-care workers in homes generate particles of different sizes and require different body movements; both factors are anticipated to affect the WPF.


      Wearing an N95-certified respirator helps significantly reduce the aerosol inhalation exposure of home-attending health-care workers. An SM offers much lower protection. The WPF depends on several factors, including, but not limited to, the health-care worker’s activity and/or body movements; the WPF varies from one worker to another.

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