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Multidomain Subjective Response to Respirator Use During Simulated Work

Harber, Philip MD, MPH; Bansal, Siddharth MD; Santiago, Silverio MD; Liu, David BS; Yun, David BS; Ng, David MD; Liu, Yihang MD, MS; Wu, Samantha BA, BS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 1 - p 38-45
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31817f458b
Original Articles: Special Section on Climate Change and Health

Objective: Evaluate subjective tolerance to respirator use outside of traditional industrial settings by users including persons with mild respiratory impairment.

Methods: The response to respirator use (half face mask dual cartridge and N95) was measured during eight types of work activities as well as in an exercise laboratory setting. The 43 research subjects included persons with mild respiratory impairments. Multiple domains of subjective response were evaluated.

Results: Mixed model regression analyses assessing the effect of respirator type and task type showed: 1) most tolerated respirator use well; 2) half face mask respirators typically had greater adverse impact than N95 types; 3) multiple subjective outcomes, rather than only comfort/breathing impact, should be measured; and 4) rated subjective impact during work activities is less than in exercise laboratory settings.

Conclusions: The results suggest that respirator use may be feasible on a widespread basis if necessary in the face of epidemic or terror concerns.

From the Occupational-Environmental Preventive Medicine, Department of Family Medicine (Dr Harber, Dr Bansal, Mr Liu, Mr Yun, Dr Liu, Ms Wu), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Wilshire, Los Angeles, Calif.; and Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine (Dr Santiago, Dr Ng), VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, Calif.

Address correspondence to: Philip Harber, MD, MPH, UCLA Occupational Medicine, 10880 Wilshire, #1800, Los Angeles, CA 90024; E-mail:

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine