Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 69(6), 734-742. DOI: 10.1080/10962247.2019.1576554

Measuring Airflow through the Portable High-efficiency Air Filtration (Pheaf) Device to Assess Reliability of Instrument and Sample Location

Derek A. Newcomer 1, Peter LaPuma 2,Robert Brandys 3, Amanda Northcross2 and Abhijit Dasgupta1,4
1Division of Occupational Health and Safety, Office of Research Services, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA 2 Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
3Occupational & Environmental Health Consulting Services, Inc., Las Vegas, NV, USA 4ARAAstat, Germantown, MD, USA


The portable high-efficiency air filtration (PHEAF) device is an engineering control common to the environmental remediation industry. Damage to the high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter (e.g., filtration media, gasket), improper installation of the filter into the mounting frame, or defects in the filtration housing affect the capture efficiency of the device. PHEAF devices operating at less than marketed efficiencies justify periodic leak testing of the PHEAF device, especially when the filtered air is exhausted into occupied spaces. A leak test is accomplished by injecting a known concentration of aerosol upstream of the HEPA filter and measuring the percentage of aerosol penetrating through the filtration system. The test protocol scripted for stationary systems (i.e., biological safety cabinets) states that upstream concentrations can be empirically determined using the aerosol photometer to measure particulate matter (PM) in the airstream. This practice requires a homogenous mixture of the aerosol challenge agent within the airstream. However, design of the PHEAF device does not include a validated induction point for the aerosol. Absent of an acceptable means to achieve a homogenous mixture for upstream measurement, the aerosol concentration is mathematically derived based on the measured air volume passing through the PHEAF equipment. In this study, intake volume and exhaust volume for each PHEAF device were measured by either the balometer or the hot wire anemometer. Variability of measurements was examined by instrument and sample location (intake vs. exhaust) to understand which combination would be most consistent for measuring airflow volume. From this study, the authors conclude that the balometer is preferred compared with the hot wire anemometer for measuring airflow through the PHEAF device. Exhaust measurement by balometer seems more reliable than intake measurements by hot wire anemometer Implications: Although testing of PHEAF devices is recommended by various public health authorities, no nationally recognized test protocol has been published in the United States. In support of measuring the performance of the PHEAF device in a field setting, this study evaluated the hot wire anemometer and balometer techniques and sample locations (intake vs. exhaust) to reliably measure airflow through the PHEAF device. Since accuracy of the particle measurement is associated with airflow volume, it is essential to obtain a true airflow reading. This study suggests that the balometer was more consistent in measuring airflow through the PHEAF device.

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