Filtration of respired gases: theoretical aspects.

Respiratory care clinics of North America

PubMedID: 16828690

Thiessen RJ. Filtration of respired gases: theoretical aspects. Respir Care Clin N Am. 2006;12(2):183-201.
The filtration of aerosols and the behavior of aerosolized particles are less intuitive and more complex than commonly indicated in the medical literature, but once the basic principles are presented, they are not difficult to understand or apply. Particles with diameters close to the most penetrating particle size are clearly the particles of greatest concern, interest, and value in considering the performance of different filtration devices, and this size has been identified as the standard particle size for testing respirators and breathing system filters. Although almost every level of health care now mandates the N95 (NIOSH rating) as the minimum rating for medical respirators, there is no such mandate regarding minimum efficiencies of breathing system filters. At least in North America, it still falls to each individual purchaser to ensure that these standardized tests are performed, because manufacturers adhere to these standards only on a voluntary basis. Government regulations similar to NIOSH 42 CFR 84 are needed for breathing system filters and should include a rating system such as N95, N99, or N100. For breathing system filters, the BFE and VFE tests are misleading and should be abandoned (or even better, banned) in favor of internationally recognized sodium chloride tests. Until then, manufacturers will be hesitant to abandon their BFE and VFE data, which give the appearance of vastly better performance than does the sodium chloride test.