U.S. Updates Standards for Bioterrorism Breathing Gear

The United States has released new guidelines for equipment designed to protect emergency responders in the aftermath of a biological-weapon attack, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 27, 2004).

The new "Recommendations for the Selection and Use of Respirators and Protective Clothing for Protection Against Biological Agents" include breathing apparatus assessed to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials, said John Decker, associate director at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The document also addresses revised National Fire Protection Association protective clothing standards, he said.

"A lot of this has changed over the last several years. ... This was part of a general review of our site and which documents needed to be updated as part of a routine process," Decker said. He noted that when guidelines were published in 2001, there was no breathing gear that offered protection against all four types of hazardous agents.

Emergency responders should use combination respirators and the highest-protection suits available when the nature of an airborne agent or its method of release is uncertain, according to the new standards. Fewer precautions are necessary when the type of substance has been ascertained and the material is found in "a letter or package that can easily be bagged," the recommendations state.

The standards, which are specifically "oriented toward acts of terrorism," address other types of breathing gear, equipment decontamination techniques, precautionary vaccine regimens and medical treatments and checkups that would follow exposure to a dangerous material (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy release, April 7).

April 8, 2009
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The United States has released new guidelines for equipment designed to protect emergency responders in the aftermath of a biological-weapon attack, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 27, 2004).