Publication Details

Burton, K. A., Whitelaw, J. L., Jones, A. L. & Davies, B. (2016). Efficiency of respirator filter media against diesel particulate matter: a comparison study using two diesel particulate sources. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 60 (6), 771-779.


Diesel engines have been a mainstay within many industries since the early 1900s. Exposure to diesel particulate matter (DPM) is a major issue in many industrial workplaces given the potential for serious health impacts to exposed workers; including the potential for lung cancer and adverse irritant and cardiovascular effects. Personal respiratory protective devices are an accepted safety measure to mitigate worker exposure against the potentially damaging health impacts of DPM. To be protective, they need to act as effective filters against carbon and other particulates. In Australia, the filtering efficiency of respiratory protective devices is determined by challenging test filter media with aerosolised sodium chloride to determine penetration at designated flow rates. The methodology outlined in AS/NZS1716 (Standards Australia International Ltd and Standards New Zealand 2012. Respiratory protective devices. Sydney/Wellington: SAI Global Limited/Standards New Zealand) does not account for the differences between characteristics of workplace contaminants like DPM and sodium chloride such as structure, composition, and particle size. This study examined filtering efficiency for three commonly used AS/NZS certified respirator filter models, challenging them with two types of diesel emissions; those from a diesel generator and a diesel engine. Penetration through the filter media of elemental carbon (EC), total carbon (TC), and total suspended particulate (TSP) was calculated. Results indicate that filtering efficiency assumed by P2 certification in Australia was achieved for two of the three respirator models for DPM generated using the small diesel generator, whilst when the larger diesel engine was used, filtering efficiency requirements were met for all three filter models. These results suggest that the testing methodology specified for certification of personal respiratory protective devices by Standards Australia may not ensure adequate protection for respirator users against DPM under all circumstances of diesel generated particles.



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