Respiratory demand during rigorous physical work in a chemical protective ensemble

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2005 Feb;2(2):98-110. doi: 10.1080/15459620590909682.


Protection afforded by a respirator filter depends on many factors, among them chemical or biological agent and flow rate. Filtration mechanisms, such as chemical adsorption, depend on sufficient residence time for the filter media to extract noxious agents from the airstream. Consequently, filter efficiency depends on inspiratory air velocities, among other factors. Filter designs account for this by adjusting bed depth and cross-sectional area to anticipated flow rates. Many military and commercial filters are designed and tested at 32-40 L/min. The present study investigated respiratory demand while U.S. Marines (n=32) completed operationally relevant tasks in chemical protective ensembles, including M-40 masks and C2A1 filters. Respiratory demand greatly exceeded current test conditions during the most arduous tasks: minute ventilation=96.4+/-18.9 L/min (mean+/-SD) with a maximum of 131.7 L/min observed in one subject. Mean peak inspiratory flow rate (PIF) reached 238.7+/-34.0 L/min with maximum PIF often exceeding 300 L/min (maximum observed value=356.3 L/min). The observed respiratory demand was consistent with data reported in previous laboratory studies of very heavy workloads. This study is among the few to report on respiratory demand while subjects perform operationally relevant tasking in chemical protective ensembles. The results indicate that military and industrial filters will probably encounter higher flow rates than previously anticipated during heavy exertion.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Filtration
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Materials Testing
  • Military Personnel*
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • Workload*


  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Hazardous Substances