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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2004 Apr;1(4):262-71.

Fitting characteristics of eighteen N95 filtering-facepiece respirators.

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505-2888, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Occup Environ Hyg. 2004 Aug;1(8):558.


Four performance measures were used to evaluate the fitting characteristics of 18 models of N95 filtering-facepiece respirators: (1) the 5th percentile simulated workplace protection factor (SWPF) value, (2) the shift average SWPF value, (3) the h-value, and (4) the assignment error. The effect of fit-testing on the level of protection provided by the respirators was also evaluated. The respirators were tested on a panel of 25 subjects with various face sizes. Simulated workplace protection factor values, determined from six total penetration (face-seal leakage plus filter penetration) tests with re-donning between each test, were used to indicate respirator performance. Five fit-tests were used: Bitrex, saccharin, generated aerosol corrected for filter penetration, PortaCount Plus corrected for filter penetration, and the PortaCount Plus with the N95-Companion accessory. Without fit-testing, the 5th percentile SWPF for all models combined was 2.9 with individual model values ranging from 1.3 to 48.0. Passing a fit-test generally resulted in an increase in protection. In addition, the h-value of each respirator was computed. The h-value has been determined to be the population fraction of individuals who will obtain an adequate level of protection (i.e., SWPF >/=10, which is the expected level of protection for half-facepiece respirators) when a respirator is selected and donned (including a user seal check) in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions without fit-testing. The h-value for all models combined was 0.74 (i.e., 74% of all donnings resulted in an adequate level of protection), with individual model h-values ranging from 0.31 to 0.99. Only three models had h-values above 0.95. Higher SWPF values were achieved by excluding SWPF values determined for test subject/respirator combinations that failed a fit-test. The improvement was greatest for respirator models with lower h-values. Using the concepts of shift average and assignment error to measure respirator performance yielded similar results. The highest level of protection was provided by passing a fit-test with a respirator having good fitting characteristics.

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