Penetration of diesel exhaust particles through commercially available dust half masks

Ann Occup Hyg. 2013 Apr;57(3):360-73. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mes074. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


Half masks are certified by the competent, national institutions--National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the USA and the respective European national institutions applying common European regulations. However, certification testing is conducted with particles of NaCl, paraffin oil, or dioctyl phthalate (DOP) and at the constant flow rate, whereas particles commonly found in workplaces may differ in size, shape, and morphology from these particles. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate filtration efficiency of commercially available filtering facepiece half masks under the condition of exposure to diesel fumes. In this study, we focused on the particulate phase [diesel exhaust particles (DEP)] of three (petroleum diesel, ecodiesel, and biodiesel) diesel fuel combustion types. Two types of European standard-certified half masks, FFP2 and FFP - Filtering Facepiece, and three types of popular diesel fuels were tested. The study showed that the filtration efficiencies for each examined half mask and for each of diesel exhaust fumes were lower than the minimum filtration efficiency required for the standard test aerosols by the European standards. For FFP2 and FFP3 particulate half masks, standard minimum filtration efficiency is 94 and 99%, respectively, whereas 84-89% of mass of DEP from various fuels were filtered by the tested FFP2 and only 75-86% by the FFP3. The study indicated that DEP is more penetrating for these filters than the standard salt or paraffin oil test aerosols. The study also showed that the most penetrating DEP are probably in the 30- to 300-nm size range, regardless of the fuel type and the half-mask model. Finally, the pressure drops across both half masks during the 80-min tests remained below an acceptable maximum of breathing resistance-regardless of the fuel types. The respiratory system, during 40-min test exposures, may be exposed to 12-16mg of DEP if a FFP2 or FFP3 particulate half mask is used. To conclude, commercially available half masks may not ensure a sufficient level of protection of the respiratory tract against diesel exhaust fumes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Filtration / standards
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • Masks / standards
  • Materials Testing / methods
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nanoparticles / analysis
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S.
  • Occupational Health
  • Particle Size
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / standards*
  • United States
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Aerosols
  • Vehicle Emissions