Elevated concentrations of diesel exhaust have been linked to adverse health effects. Filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) are widely used as a form of respiratory protection against diesel particulate matter (DPM) in occupational settings. Previous results (Penconek A, Drązyk P, Moskal A. (2013) Penetration of diesel exhaust particles through commercially available dust half masks. Ann Occup Hyg; 57: 360-73.) have suggested that common FFRs are less efficient than would be expected for this purpose based on their certification approvals. The objective of this study was to measure the penetration of DPM through NIOSH-certified R95 and P95 electret respirators to verify this result. Gravimetric-based penetration measurements conducted using polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and polypropylene (PP) filters were compared with penetration measurements made with a Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS, TSI Inc.), which measures the particle size distribution. Gravimetric measurements using PP filters were variable compared to SMPS measurements and biased high due to adsorption of gas phase organic material. Relatively inert PTFE filters adsorbed less gas phase organic material resulting in measurements that were more accurate. To attempt to correct for artifacts associated with adsorption of gas phase organic material, primary and secondary filters were used in series upstream and downstream of the FFR. Correcting for adsorption by subtracting the secondary mass from the primary mass improved the result for both PTFE and PP filters but this correction is subject to 'equilibrium' conditions that depend on sampling time and the concentration of particles and gas phase hydrocarbons. Overall, the results demonstrate that the use of filters to determine filtration efficiency of FFRs challenged with diesel exhaust produces erroneous results due to the presence of gas phase hydrocarbons in diesel exhaust and the tendency of filters to adsorb organic material.
- Filtration efficiency
- Organic carbon
- Particle size distribution
- Respiratory protection
- Semi-volatile particulate matter