Respiratory Protection Committee Identifies
BY HARRY ETTINGER, LARRY JANSSEN AND RICH METZLER
In 2007–2008, the AIHA® Respiratory Protection Committee
(RPC) determined that it would identify priorities for respirator
research and development. A subcommittee headed by Larry
Janssen was assigned responsibility for identifying technical
topic areas that were appropriate for consideration and of prioritization by the entire RPC. The subcommittee identified 18 priority topics in fit-testing, anthropometry/test panels, respiratory
protection programs, device performance, and physiology/user
As this effort progressed, the RPC decided to develop a white
paper identifying a limited number of priority areas and submit
it to NIOSH, the primary source of funding for respirator research and development in the United States. The RPC is finalizing the white paper and seeking approval from the AIHA
Board of Directors prior to submission to NIOSH. Our hope is
that the paper’s recommendations will be incorporated into the
Many current practices in respiratory protection are based
on assumptions, professional experience, best judgment or extrapolation from laboratory studies. Limited studies have evaluated the efficacy of, or the need for, each practice. The RPC
believes that the practical, applied research topics presented in
the white paper will significantly enhance the safe and effective use of respiratory protection.
Following are the seven research priorities identified in the
white paper. Some of the topics involve operational considerations, and the proposed studies would benefit from coordinated
efforts by operational and research and development or health
and safety professionals.
1. Conduct a comprehensive literature search on the measurement of respirator performance to identify what is known
and what is not known on this topic. This review would establish a set of research projects to fill gaps in information
and technology. Ultimately, these projects would permit reliable assessment of respirator performance in the laboratory
and in the workplace and relate their performance in these
settings. At this time, no clear consensus exists on the “
correct” way to measure respirator performance—for example,
total inward leakage, workplace protection studies, simulated workplace protection studies, laboratory studies, etc.—
or how to interpret test results from these techniques.
2. Develop a qualitative fit-test (QLFT) capable of screening for a
minimum fit factor of 500. This would allow full facepieces
to be qualitatively fit-tested and used in atmospheres where
exposures are up to 50 times the occupational exposure limit.
Because the current QLFT screens only for a minimum fit fac-
tor of 100, full-facepiece respirators must be quantitatively
fit-tested if they will be used in a work situation that requires
an assigned protection factor (APF) greater than 10. This situ-
ation is problematic for many smaller employers.
The RPC will post the complete white paper as well as sum-maries of the 18 original subject areas to the committee page
of the AIHA website. Individuals may comment either to the
RPC or directly to NIOSH. The RPC recognizes that some health
and safety professionals may disagree with our prioritization of
the research areas. All comments, suggestions, and constructive
criticism are welcome and should be directed to Jay Parker,
chair, RPC, email@example.com.