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Effectiveness of personal protective equipment against dermal exposure - a comparative survey

The efficiency of dermal personal protective equipment (PPE) may depend on several factors, such as the material and the thickness of the PPE or the behaviour of the user. Within this project, literature on the efficiency of dermal PPE was searched, compiled in a database and evaluated in order to examine - to the extent possible - the impact of these factors and to compare the results with default factors for the efficiency of dermal PPE. The literature search identified 410 datasets with data on the efficiency of dermal PPE, with only 13 datasets being based on biomonitoring studies and 397 datasets derived from dosimetry studies. Within the dosimetry studies, most of the datasets relate to protective gloves (N=142) and suits (N=150). After limiting the datasets to studies providing minimum information on the PPE investigated, average protection factors were 88% (gloves) and 90% (suits). The distributions of protection factors for both types of PPE suggest that the majority of values is higher than the calculated averages. Less than 10 datasets each were obtained for all other types of dermal PPE. No standardised method for the determination of the efficiency of dermal PPE by dosimetry was identified. Only few studies investigated the impact of the measurement method or the study design.

Several other differentiations, e.g. by the length and state (used vs. new) of protective gloves, were tested. Definitive conclusions on the impact of these factors could not be drawn from the comparison of groups within the database. However, additional information could be extracted from some individual studies.

Apart from the studies in the database, which reflect the occupational setting, both in vitro studies and experimental data generated for the purpose of model development were evaluated. While the in vitro studies did not allow drawing general conclusions, experimental data for protective suits identified some factors with an impact on the efficiency (e.g. thickness and surface tension of the chemical mixture tested).

In summary, the evaluations provide a comprehensive overview of studies on the efficiency of dermal PPE. Due to the problems described, the default factors for the efficiency of dermal PPE can neither be reliably substantiated nor disproven by the data generated. The problems identified in the evaluation can serve as a basis for future research projects.

Bibliographic information

J. Oltmanns, E. Kaiser, K. Heine, K. Schneider, S. Hesse, St. Hahn:
Effectiveness of personal protective equipment against dermal exposure - a comparative survey. 
1. edition. Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin 2016. pages 199, PDF file, DOI: 10.21934/baua:bericht20161101

download file "Effectiveness of personal protective equipment against dermal exposure - a comparative survey" (PDF, 3 MB, Not barrier-free file)