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Testing, Testing 123: Phlebotomy Basics

When my mother underwent chemotherapy, we spent a lot of time visiting the phlebotomy lab for blood testing. I was always impressed by how easily the phlebotomist was able to find and puncture a vein to draw blood on the first try. I knew there had to be a method to it, and was astounded by how effortless and painless they made the process. It led me to research a lot about blood tests, from drawing to the actual screening. I've created this site to share what I've learned in the hopes of teaching others. The more you understand, the more control you can have over your own health care.

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Testing, Testing 123: Phlebotomy Basics

Why Your Perception During Qualitative Testing Matters

by Francisco Arnold

Mask and respirator fit testing can take two forms. One is qualitative (often used for masks that cover the nose and mouth), and the other is quantitative (for masks that cover the full face). Occasionally you may do a test for the other type of mask (e.g. qualitative for full-face masks), but usually, the qualitative evaluation is for the partial ones.

Because the qualitative test is essentially subjective — you wear the mask and then indicate if you can smell, taste, or sense contaminants — you may wonder why it should be done instead of quantitative testing, which looks at the measure of actual contaminant particles breaching the mask. After all, maybe particles are getting through and you just can't smell or taste them, right? Not really. Qualitative testing is just as legitimate for a number of reasons.

Physical Levels Don't Always Correspond to Human Reaction

Maybe some of the contaminant particles have gotten behind the mask and you can't detect them. Or, maybe some of the contaminant particles have gotten behind the mas, and you can detect them but at levels that are too low for quantitative equipment to pick up. Human reaction to contaminants doesn't always match up with the actual physical levels present in the air.

For example, think of days when a pollen that you're highly allergic to is present at very low levels according to the local weather report. You might be suffering from allergy symptoms while everyone else around you detects nothing. In that situation, the quantitative result on the news does not match up with your experience. In a qualitative test, you get to find out if the mask truly works for you given your sensitivity levels.

Here's Your Chance to Refine Your Mask Choice

It is possible to fail the test, which means the mask you have on does not fit adequately. So, this test gives you an opportunity to find a mask that fits well and that passes the test. Overall, that switch will help keep you healthier and safer in the long run.

The Test Investigates Different Methods of Exposure

Quantitative testing looks at the presence of particulates in the air, but qualitative looks at how exposure affects your perception of contaminants. Some are tasted, some are smelled, and some are breathed in, giving you a good idea of how the mask interacts with your own sensitivities in different exposure situations.

Qualitative testing doesn't take that long. However, you do have to be careful and follow instructions exactly in order to get the best results possible.

For more information about qualitative fit testing, contact a company like National Fit Test Services.

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