*Tyvek Suit and N100 Facemask*
A Practical Test
By: Spitfire
11 April 2005

With the very real possibility of needing to actually don and use all those Tyvek zoot suits and N100 facemasks Iíve been buying, I thought it would be a good idea to see how well I could work in them. Specifically, I wanted to know;

  1. How easy it was to don and duff the suit.
  2. How durable the suit was in a real life work situation.
  3. What physiological impacts were for the suit and facemask.
  4. Would the attached booties work over shoes.

I needed to apply new bottom paint to our boat this year and thought that this would be a pretty good real life test since this would be done outside in less than ideal conditions. For this test, I decided not to go the full route of using gloves and taping seams since I had no actual way to measure infiltration anyway. Iím just going to have to trust that in an NBC situation gloves and tape will do what theyíre supposed to do.

The Tyvek suits I stock have booties and a hood permanently attached and use a half-length front zipper. It took less than one minute to don the suit. It took nearly two minutes to get the 3M, N100 mask on because out of the bag the elastic straps are not already threaded through the plastic clips that hold them. Good lesson learned here, for quick deployment with BOB or BOV, I will pre-thread the straps and then heat seal the facemasks back in the bags. I also had to allow about 30 seconds to form the mask to my face for the best fit.

Here I am at the marina, all suited up and ready to work. Normally there wouldnít be anyone around early Sunday morning but as luck would have it my slip neighbor was there working on his boat as well. Heís an engineer and hardly even made a comment J That brown stuff in the picture are thousands of prickly seed pods off of the trees in the background. Theyíre sharp and usually stick to anything but they didnít stick to the Tyvek suit, nor did they punture it.

It took 1.5 hours to paint the bottom of the boat. The temperature was 65F. The Sun was shining brightly and humidity was low. Hereís what I learned.

  1. The suit was quite comfortable so far as movement was concerned. Iím normally a "large" in clothing but got XL because of my 6í3" height.
  2. Lying on the ground and painting over my head is moderately hard work. The suit breathed reasonably well, but if the temperature or humidity were higher Iíd have been sweating quite a bit.
  3. The N100 mask surprised me. After the initial few minutes of getting used to it I didnít have any problems at all. The 3M masks I buy have exhalation valves in them and I consider this an absolute necessity for anything longer than a few minutes. I was also impressed with the soft rubber seal on the 3M masks. I wear a beard but was able to get a good seal anyway, as tested with pure vanilla extract a few inches from the mask. Even though this mask doesnít have any activated charcoal in it, it managed to greatly reduce the smell of the ablative bottom paint that I was using. (Anyone whoís been around bottom paint knows what Iím talking about)
  4. Spilled paint did not penetrate the suit.
  5. The attached booties did not do well on the outside of my boots. There werenít any actual holes in them, but the Tyvek was noticeably worn and frayed and I wouldnít trust its integrity in this shape. In an NBC situation, Iíll wear the booties inside my rubber boots and tape the suit to the tops of the boots if I need to walk outside. The rest of the suit held up just fine.
  6. The mask and suit were easy to duff (get off). When I was done painting, I first removed the mask, then the attached hood. I put the mask in the hood and turned the suit inside out as I removed my arms, chest, waist and finally legs.
  7. Thereís no way to get a drink of water without compromising the mask situation.

So to summarize, I tested actually doing moderate work in a Tyvek suit and N100 facemask for 1.5 hours outside in 65F temperature and low humidity. It worked fine and I didnít suffer any particular discomfort, although if the temperature or humidity were higher I would have needed to shorten the exposure time or risk dehydration.

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