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Decontamination Methods for Reuse of N95 Respirators

The most current literature on decontamination of N95 respirators . . .

Decontamination Methods for Reuse of N95 Respirators

  • The authors reviewed the most current literature on decontamination of N95 respirators, which could enable extension of a limited supply while providing for maximum safety of healthcare professionals. UV light (UVGI), steam heating, dry heat, and vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) sterilization all show potential to permit effective and safe reuse of N95 respirators. UVGI and VHP appear to be the most promising candidates. Proper hand hygiene, handling of used PPE, and donning and doffing techniques are paramount when handling contaminated respirators to minimize risk of infection. In addition, a surgical mask or face shield should be worn over the N95 respirator for additional protection and to reduce soiling. Another technique to allow reuse of N95 respirators is decontamination by time for at least 72 hours, while still using careful PPE donning and doffing techniques, as most viral particles will no longer be viable.
  • Filtering face piece respirators (N95) are especially critical for healthcare professionals performing high-risk, aerosol-generating procedures in the upper aerodigestive tract, where the SARS-CoV-2 viral load is high. A decontamination procedure is useful only if it preserves the integrity and electrostatic charge of the filter material and mask fit. The authors conclude that, during times of scarce PPE resources, decontamination by time and rotating N95 masks or resterilization by methods such as UVGI or VHP can mitigate the limited supply of respirators and the risk of infection from the virus on used PPE.

– Laurie C. Carter, DDS, PhD

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