Aerosol penetration and leakage characteristics of masks used in the health care industry

The percentage of filter penetration ranged from 20% to nearly 100% for submicrometer-sized particles. In comparison, a dust-mist-fume respirator used in industrial settings had significantly less penetration through its filter medium. When the surgical masks had artificially induced face-seal leaks, the concentration of submicrometer-sized particles inside the mask increased slightly; in contrast, the more protective dust-mist-fume respirator showed a fourfold increase in aerosol penetration into the mask with an artificial leak 4 mm in diameter. We conclude that the protection provided by surgical masks may be insufficient in environments containing potentially hazardous submicrometer-sized aerosols.