Characteristics of Face Seal Leakage in Filtering Facepieces


Several studies have found that aerosol size, testing method, leak size, leak position, sampling probe location, and the mixing condition inside the respirator affect the results of fit factor measurements. This study focuses on the effect of leak shape and filter resistance because leaks have been reported to vary in shape from circular to slit-like. Four leaks of different shape but the same cross-sectional area were used to study their effect on aerosol penetration. Dust-mist and high-efficiency particulate air filtering facepieces provided different filter resistances. An aerodynamic particle sizer and a laser aerosol spectrometer were used to measure the particle size-dependent aerosol concentrations inside and outside the respirators. The filtering facepieces were sealed to a mannequin and artificial leaks were inserted near the right cheek. Aerosol penetration was measured for five flow rates ranging from 5 to 100 L/min. The pressure drop across the mask was monitored with an inclined manometer. At a given pressure differential, a slit-like leak and multiple circular leaks have been found to pass less aerosols than a single circular leak of equal cross-sectional area because the leak flow decreases with an increase in leak shape complexity. If there is substantial lack of face seal fit and the breathing rate is low, a HEPA respirator may provide less protection than a dust-mist respirator because the pressure drop is considerably higher for a HEPA respirator, resulting in more aerosol flow through the leak.

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