Laboratory study to assess causative factors affecting temporal changes in filtering facepiece respirator fit: part I - pilot study

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2011 Dec;8(12):729-39. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2011.627294.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is conducting a first-of-its-kind study that will assess respirator fit and facial dimension changes as a function of time and improve the scientific basis for decisions on the periodicity of fit testing. A representative sample of 220 subjects wearing filtering-facepiece respirators (FFR) will be evaluated to investigate factors that affect changes in respirator fit over time. The objective of this pilot study (n = 10) was to investigate the variation in fit test data collected in accordance with the study protocol. Inward leakage (IL) and filter penetration were measured for each donned respirator, permitting the calculation of face seal leakage (FSL) and fit factor (FF). The study included only subjects who (a) passed one of the first three fit tests (FF ≥ 100), and (b) demonstrated through a series of nine donnings that they achieved adequate fit (90th percentile FSL was ≤ 0.05). Following the respirator fit tests, 3-D scans of subjects were captured, and height, weight, and 13 traditional anthropometric facial dimensions were measured. The same data were collected 2 and 4 weeks after baseline. The mean change in FSL for the 10 subjects was 0.044% between Visits 1 and 2, and was 0.229% between Visits 1 and 3. Technicians achieved at least moderate reliability for all manual measurements except nose protrusion. Filter penetration was generally less than 0.03%. Geometric mean fit factors were not statistically different among the three visits. The large variability was observed with different respirator samples for the same model, between subjects (inter), and within each subject (intra). Although variability was observed, adequate fit was maintained for all 10 subjects. Pilot scans collected show subject faces remained the same over the 4 weeks. The consistent results during the pilot study indicate that the methods and procedures are appropriate for the 3-year main study. In addition, this baseline fit change data will be compared with future fit changes to determine if the changes are meaningful.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Filtration
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Materials Testing
  • Observer Variation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • Time Factors