Respiratory protection provided by a particulate respirator is a function of particle penetration through filter media and through faceseal leakage. Faceseal leakage largely contributes to the penetration of particles through a respirator and compromises protection. When faceseal leaks arise, filter penetration is assumed to be negligible. The contribution of filter penetration and faceseal leakage to total inward leakage (TIL) of submicron-size bioaerosols is not well studied. To address this issue, TIL values for two N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) models and two surgical mask (SM) models sealed to a manikin were measured at 8 L and 40 L breathing minute volumes with different artificial leak sizes. TIL values for different size (20-800 nm, electrical mobility diameter) NaCl particles representing submicron-size bioaerosols were measured using a scanning mobility particle sizer. Efficiency of filtering devices was assessed by measuring the penetration against NaCl aerosol similar to the method used for NIOSH particulate filter certification. Results showed that the most penetrating particle size (MPPS) was ∼45 nm for both N95 FFR models and one of the two SM models, and ∼350 nm for the other SM model at sealed condition with no leaks as well as with different leak sizes. TIL values increased with increasing leak sizes and breathing minute volumes. Relatively, higher efficiency N95 and SM models showed lower TIL values. Filter efficiency of FFRs and SMs influenced the TIL at different flow rates and leak sizes. Overall, the data indicate that good fitting higher-efficiency FFRs may offer higher protection against submicron-size bioaerosols.
Keywords: N95 filtering facepiece respirator; NaCl aerosol; faceseal leakage; filter penetration; surgical mask; total inward leakage.