Respiratory Protective Equipment

Half-face particle filter respirators are a significant control measure used in successful programms.12,23 Such respirators of type P2 have been shown to reduce inhaled allergen by 90%.59 This should be sharply contrasted with the disposable surgical masks that are occasionally used. These are primarily designed to protect surgical fields from exhaled droplets. They provide a poor seal around the edge and, although they may be comfortable to wear, provide limited, if any, protection.

Several types of ventilated masks and helmets have been developed in which filtered air is delivered to the operator. These can be highly effective in reducing exposure to airborne allergen. Air-stream respirator helmets have been shown to relieve symptoms of LAA in sensitized workers.75 Supplied air systems have an important place in both the prevention of allergy and the control of symptoms. They should be available for workers at high risk and for workers carrying out high-risk tasks, such as cleaning up spillages of heavily contaminated bedding or maintaining cage emptying systems. Workers with LAA can continue to work in animal areas, as long as they remain symptom-free, if they use these devices so their exposure to allergen is negligible. Any person using a ventilated device should be trained in its use. Equipment should be cleaned and stored and their filters changed without spread of allergen or cross-contamination.

Although these air-supplied devices can reduce personal exposure to aeroallergen to negligible levels, they do have major drawbacks: they do not easily facilitate detailed work up close to the animal when the risk of exposure is high; they may be uncomfortable if used for long periods, leading to headaches and neck discomfort; and they may not be suitable for some tasks, such as socialization.

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