Evaluation of the user seal check on gross leakage detection of 3 different designs of N95 filtering facepiece respirators

Simon C. Lam, Andrew K.F. Lui, Linda Y.K. Lee, Joseph K.L. Lee, K. F. Wong, Cathy N.Y. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background The use of N95 respirators prevents spread of respiratory infectious agents, but leakage hampers its protection. Manufacturers recommend a user seal check to identify on-site gross leakage. However, no empirical evidence is provided. Therefore, this study aims to examine validity of a user seal check on gross leakage detection in commonly used types of N95 respirators. Methods A convenience sample of 638 nursing students was recruited. On the wearing of 3 different designs of N95 respirators, namely 3M-1860s, 3M-1862, and Kimberly-Clark 46827, the standardized user seal check procedure was carried out to identify gross leakage. Repeated testing of leakage was followed by the use of a quantitative fit testing (QNFT) device in performing normal breathing and deep breathing exercises. Sensitivity, specificity, predictive values, and likelihood ratios were calculated accordingly. Results As indicated by QNFT, prevalence of actual gross leakage was 31.0%-39.2% with the 3M respirators and 65.4%-65.8% with the Kimberly-Clark respirator. Sensitivity and specificity of the user seal check for identifying actual gross leakage were approximately 27.7% and 75.5% for 3M-1860s, 22.1% and 80.5% for 3M-1862, and 26.9% and 80.2% for Kimberly-Clark 46827, respectively. Likelihood ratios were close to 1 (range, 0.89-1.51) for all types of respirators. Conclusions The results did not support user seal checks in detecting any actual gross leakage in the donning of N95 respirators. However, such a check might alert health care workers that donning a tight-fitting respirator should be performed carefully.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-586
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2016


  • Respiratory protective devices
  • disease transmission
  • infection control
  • occupational safety


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