Effectiveness of respirator masks for healthcare workers, in France

Med Mal Infect. 2012 Jun;42(6):264-9. doi: 10.1016/j.medmal.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 Jun 9.


Objective: The authors had for objective to evaluate the air-tightness of FFP2 respirator masks used by healthcare workers, with a quantitative fit-test protocol.

Materials and methods: This test measures the number of ambient particles inside and outside the respirator mask. The ratio between both is called fit-factor. The fit-test is successful for an FFP2 respirator mask when the fit-factor is equal or superior to 100. The tests were performed in three hospitals. Nine types of FFP2 respirator masks were fit-tested, classified in three groups: hard shell, duckbill, and flat-fold respirator masks.

Results: One hundred and eighty fit-tests were performed. Less than a third of the fit-tests were successful (35/130). The rate of successful tests was higher with flat-fold (57.5%, 23/40) than with duckbill (18.3%, 11/60), or hard shell respirator masks (3.3%, 1/30), (P<0.05). Zero to 60% of healthcare workers had a successful fit-test with the respirator masks used in each hospital. This percentage increased with the number of tested respirator masks. No 100% success rate was ever reached in any hospital with the three tested respirator masks.

Conclusion: Duckbill, and flat-fold respirator masks seem to be better adapted for healthcare workers than hard shell respirator masks. It seems necessary to implement new recommendations for respiratory protection in France. At least two types of respirator masks with various sizes and shape should be available and fitting controls should be performed with respirator masks that are worn by healthcare workers exposed to infectious risks.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • France
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*