"In many cases we don't have enough information to predict how well any respirator will protect under the very unusual circumstances of a terrorist event," says Manuel R. Gomez, DrPH, CIH, director of Scientific Affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). "We need better information about what each type of respirator can do and how to use them properly."

The voluntary consensus standard committee ANSI/AIHA ASC Z88, accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), provides guidelines for selection and use for many types of respirators. But those guidelines do not address conditions that can arise from the use of chemical or biological weapons. No current ANSI standards address respirator use during responses to these incidents.

To plug the gap, the ASC Z88 committee recently voted to form a subcommittee, Z88.14, to develop a national consensus standard, "Respirator Use For Emergency Response And Operations Against Terrorism And Weapons Of Mass Destruction".

AIHA invites all interested parties to attend the first open meeting of the Z88.14 subcommittee, which will be held April 10, 2003, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Premiere in Tyson's Corner, Va.