Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Environmental and Occupational Health

Major Professor

Yehia Y. Hammad, Sc.D.

Committee Member

Thomas E. Bernard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven P. Mlynarek, Ph.D.


Single Use, Filter, Efficiency, Polystyrene Latex, Aerosol


Certain models of NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece air purifying respirators are manufactured with stapled head straps. Depending on the manufacturer, these head straps may be stapled to the filter media itself. This may cause leakage through the filter media of the respirator, potentially exposing the user to an unacceptable level of contaminant. In this study, monodisperse polystyrene latex (PSL) spheres were generated to challenge four replicates of a N95 single use respirator model made by the same manufacturer.

Nominal particle sizes of the PSL spheres used to challenge the respirators were 0.5, 1, and 2 micrometers in diameter. All respirators were sealed onto a custom built testing assembly and tested in a sealed chamber. Particle sizes of interest were generated using a nebulizer, and passed through a diffusion dryer and a Krypton-85 radioactive source prior to entering the test chamber. The dryer reduces the humidity of the aerosol generating by the nebulizer, while the radioactive source neutralizes the charge of the aerosol cloud. The test chamber was constructed using a glass aquarium measuring 32 x 53 x 122 centimeters. Three stainless steel air diffusers were placed above the testing compartment to evenly distribute the aerosol in the chamber. An exhaust manifold was placed at the lower part of the chamber beneath another stainless steel diffuser below the area where test respirators were placed.

The respirators were challenged as received from the manufacturer with 0.5, 1 and 2 micrometer-sized (PSL) spheres. The same procedure was repeated for each respirator after sealing the areas where the head straps were stapled with silicon rubber. Testing was conducted at a flow rate of 85 liters per minute, as specified in the NIOSH respirator testing protocol. A laser particle counter was used to measure the concentration inside and outside of the respirator.

The results showed unsealed efficiencies for particle sizes 0.5, 1, and 2 micrometers of 96.68%, 99.72%, 99.88% and sealed efficiencies of 97.35%, 99.82%, 99.93% respectively. There were no differences for particle size or sealing at 1.0 and 2.0 micrometers. A significant drop in efficiency was observed when testing with 0.5 micrometer PSL spheres. The drops in efficiency are not sufficient to reduce the integrity of the respirator for N95 certification. However, the leakages detected will have a cumulative effect when added to other sources of single use respirator leakage in the field.