Recent NIOSH research has shed some light on the topic of the safety of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFR) use by pregnant workers. Women make up approximately one-half of the US work force. At any given time, about 10% of those female workers of child-bearing age (15–44 years of age) will be pregnant. Because many women are employed in occupations that require the use of protective facemasks, such as medical/surgical masks and FFR, NIOSH conducted research into the safety of FFR use while pregnant. The most frequently used FFR in the US is the N95 FFR (commonly referred to as “N95 mask”), but little information was previously available about the safety of N95 FFR use during pregnancy. Some individuals complain of difficulty breathing when wearing an N95 FFR or other protective facemasks, and many pregnant women find that they become somewhat shorter of breath as their pregnancy progresses, causing concern that use of N95 FFRs during pregnancy might make breathing even more difficult and possibly harm the woman and her fetus. Beyond the issue of use by pregnant working women on the job, the question also has implications for pregnant women outside the workplace. People sometimes use N95 FFRs as a matter of personal choice during infectious disease outbreaks, during environmental disasters that pollute the air, and even in more common recreational activities that may expose them to airborne allergens, such as gardening and woodworking.
NIOSH Research – Monitoring Oxygen Saturation and Transcutaneous Carbon Dioxide Levels of Pregnant Workers Who Wear Protective Facemasks
In these studies, NIOSH researchers compared 22 healthy, non-smoking women who were in either their second or third trimesters of pregnancy with 22 healthy, non-smoking, non-pregnant women who were similar in age, height and weight. All of the women were experienced protective facemask users and were tested for one hour with and without wearing an N95 FFR while sitting, pedaling an exercise bicycle and standing.
There were no significant differences between the effects of wearing an N95 FFR on pregnant and non-pregnant women with respect to…Click here to read the rest of the blog post.