Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Environmental and Occupational Health

Major Professor

Yehia Y. Hammad, Sc.D.

Co-Major Professor

Steve Mlynarek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yangxin Huang, Ph. D.


polystyrene latex, monodispersed aerosols, NIOSH certification tests, chamber, manikin, particle counter


Surgical masks are intended to be used to prevent transmission of disease from a health care worker to a patient. Often times, they are relied upon by health care workers for their own protection. In light of recent developments regarding preparation for health care worker response to global infectious diseases such as H1N1 Influenza, health care workers may experience a false sense of security when wearing surgical masks. The goal of this study was to evaluate the filtration efficiency of a double strap tie-on surgical mask. The manufacturer asserts a >95% efficiency with a 0.1 um challenge aerosol under FDA testing procedures. The NIOSH Title 42 CFR Part 84 certification criteria call for testing at a rate of 85 lpm representing a human moderate to heavy work load breathing rate. Three sizes of monodispersed aerosols (polystyrene latex beads: 0.5 um, 1.0 um, 2.0 um) were used.

The specific aims were to measure the collection efficiencies of this mask for the various particle sizes. Two tests were performed. In the first, masks were affixed to a dummy head and the edges of the mask were not sealed. In the second, the edges of the masks were sealed to the head using silicone sealant, so all penetration was through the filtering material of the mask. Differences in upstream and downstream particle concentrations were measured. Thus, penetration by leakage around the mask and through the filtering material was measured. The experimental set up involved passing the aerosol from the nebulizer through a diffusion dryer and Kr-85 charge equilibrator ensuring a dry charge neutralized aerosol cloud for detection by a LASAIR particle counter. The analysis revealed that the filtration efficiency for 0.5 um particles ranged from 3% to 43% for the unsealed masks and 42% to 51% for the sealed. For 1.0 um particles, the efficiency was 58% to 75% for unsealed and 71% to 84% for sealed masks. For 2.0 um, the efficiency was 58% to 79% for unsealed masks and 69% to 85% for the sealed masks. The data were statistically significant and indicated that surgical masks were associated with very low filtration efficiency. This suggests that they may be inadequate against airborne viruses and bacteria.