AIHA Announces New ANSI Subcommittee for Counter Terrorism Respirators

March 21, 2003
As the terror alert warnings glow orange, the Department of Homeland Security has offered a number of suggestions for items we might want to stock up on in case of a terrorist event. One suggested item is a disposable respirator.

"In many cases we don't have enough information to predict how well any respirator will protect under the very unusual circumstances of a terrorist event," said Manuel R. Gomez, DrPH, CIH, director of Scientific Affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). "We need better information about what each type of respirator can do and how to use them properly."

Respirators are rated for effectiveness under a variety of circumstances, but the available information is incomplete. The voluntary consensus standard committee ANSI/AIHA ASC Z88, accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), provides guidelines for selection and use for many types of respirators, but those guidelines do not currently address conditions that may arise from the use of chemical or biological weapons. In fact, no current ANSI standards address respirator use during responses to these incidents.

Realizing this gap, the ASC Z88 committee recently voted to form a subcommittee, Z88.14, to develop a national consensus standard, "Respirator Use For Emergency Response And Operations Against Terrorism And Weapons Of Mass Destruction."

"Industrial hygienists were there in New York and at the Pentagon, working to make sure that rescue personnel had the right protection," said Gomez. "Many industrial hygienists work with the military or in emergency preparedness. This committee will be a valuable resource to ensure that those who rely on respirators under unusual circumstances will be better prepared to select the correct respirators and use them effectively."

The first open meeting of the Z88.14 subcommittee will be held April 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sheraton Premiere in Tyson's Corner, Va.

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