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Signal detection capability during uninterrupted full face-piece respirator wear

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This study investigated the differences between conditions of full face-piece respirator wear and no respirator wear over 9 h on subject ability to detect stimuli dispersed throughout the visual field. Signal detection was assessed at the beginning of each trial and after 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 h of testing in six male and three female subjects by measuring response times to 32 randomly presented stimulus lights located within a perimeter designed specifically for this purpose. Average reaction time increased with greater peripheralization of the light signals within each experimental condition. Group mean reaction time for each peripheral ring of stimuli (12, 38, 64 and 90) showed that impairments were significantly greater for the respirator wear condition compared with the control condition at all peripheral stimulus locations. For the unmasked condition, female subjects demonstrated significantly faster response times than males at peripheral stimulus locations of 12 (p < 0.002), 64 ( p < 0.001), and 90 (p < 0.01). However, respirator wear resulted in comparable response times between sexes for each peripheral stimulus ring with the exception of stimuli located 12 from the perimeter's centre. No progressive effect of respirator wear on signal detection capability over the duration of the test was observed, suggesting that the degradation of signal detection capability caused by full face-piece respirator wear occurs immediately and persists throughout the period of wear. The findings of this study emphasize that decreased operational effectiveness in situations requiring full face-piece respirator wear should be expected.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1999

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