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Do We Need to Challenge Respirator Filters With Biological Aerosols?

Categories: Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health

Figure 1. Typical particle sizes found in various workplace and environmental aerosols. The dashed green line represents the 0.3 um mass median aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) sodium chloride aerosol used by NIOSH for respirator filter testing of N95-class air purifying respirators. Note: adapted from various sources.(16-18)

The purpose of this NIOSH Science Blog is to explain what is currently known about an important aspect of respirator filtration.  For decades, respirator researchers have been asked whether filters need to be tested with aerosols similar to those encountered in the environment (Figure 1).  Common sense suggests that viruses or bacteria are collected differently from engineered nanoparticles, silica dusts, oil mists or other types of workplace aerosols.

Making a Splash: Three Fishermen Saved by Personal Flotation Devices!

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Personal Protective Equipment

The crew of the salmon setnet skiff Paul Revere pose on the shore of Bristol Bay with the inflatable PFDS that saved their lives when their boat capsized.

On the night of June 26, 2010 the fishing vessel Paul Revere, a salmon setnet skiff, capsized while setting their gear in preparation for the start of fishing season. The skipper and her two crew members were thrown in the waters of Bristol Bay near South Naknek, AK. The crew spent two harrowing hours drifting with the current and trying to signal for help. Eventually they were able to rescue themselves by catching onto a setnet line and pulling themselves hand over hand toward shore. The skipper and her crew were wearing inflatable PFDs as part of their standard work gear.

They attribute their survival to the flotation and peace of mind provided by these devices. Their story shows how effective PFDs can be in preventing fatalities among commercial fishermen. We know the details of this story only because the PFDs used by the crew allowed them to survive much longer in the water than they would have without them. Without their PFDs, the fishermen most certainly would have succumbed to the effects of cold water immersion and drowned.

Silica Hazards from Engineered Stone Countertops

Categories: Construction, Manufacturing, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health

A new engineered stone countertop product known as “quartz surfacing,” was created in the late 1980s by combining quartz aggregate with resins to create a product for use in home building and home improvement.  Manufacturing of this material, including products such as CaesarStone™, Silestone™, Zodiaq™, or Cambria™ is a fast growing industry.  First made in Israel and Spain, production of these materials has grown world-wide, driving quartz slab imports to the U.S. up 63% between 2011 and 2012 and 48% between April 2012 and April 2013 (Schwartzkopf 2013, StatWatch 2013).  Quartz surfacing materials may contain up to 93% crystalline silica (Dupont 2010).  In contrast, the percent of crystalline silica in a slab of granite is less than 45%, darker color granite has a lower percentage (Simcox et al. 1999).  Workers who fabricate and install quartz surfacing are at risk for overexposure to silica released during sizing, cutting, grinding and polishing.  Prolonged inhalation of dust from silica-containing materials can lead to silicosis (scarring of the lungs).  In addition to silicosis, scientific evidence indicates that occupational exposure to crystalline silica puts workers at increased risk for  other serious health conditions: chronic obstructive lung disease, lung cancer, kidney and connective tissue disease, and tuberculosis.  The focus of this blog is on silicosis, which has occurred in multiple workers in this industry.

Respirator Care = Safe to Wear!

Categories: Mining, Personal Protective Equipment

Photo courtesy of Draeger

Happy Valentine’s Day! And on this most romantic day of the year, what else could you possibly do than show some love … to your respirator. Last year on this day, we blogged about maintaining your relationship with your Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). To continue to spread the love, this year we want to focus on those mining professionals who work up close and personally with Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs). An SCSR is a lifesaving device that miners depend upon in times of emergency to escape from a hazardous environment within the mine. To keep this important device functioning reliably, daily inspections and upkeep become a ‘life or death’ matter. Though you may consider this to be a high-maintenance relationship, it is worth the necessary attention. In the event of an emergency, you need to successfully don and activate your respirator as quickly as possible to escape from danger.

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