Can We Safely Reuse N95 Masks?
One example of personal protective equipment used to shield the wearer from viruses and from liquids contaminating the skin is N95 respirators. N95 respirators are also supervised by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ( NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).
It is important to note that using a variety of approaches from around the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone, is the best way to stop airborne transmission.
In order to be safe against respiratory infections, including coronavirus (COVID-19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not prescribe that the general population wear N95 respirators. As recommended by existing CDC guidelines, those essential supplies must continue to be reserved for health care staff and all medical first responders.
How Do N95's Work?
At least 95 percent of particles containing a median of 0.3 μm are collected by the filtration media found in the N95. While viral particles are a few orders of magnitude smaller than this, nanoparticles move primarily via Brownian motion and are captured by mechanical and electrostatic forces effectively within the N95 filter. Hydrophobic polypropylene is usually the outer mask material. Importantly, prolonged mask use, reuse, or re-processing all have an effect on the mask's filtration ability.
How To Prolong The Use of N95 Masks?
Differentiating between extended use, reuse, and re-processing of the mask is important.
The CDC states that repeated use of the N95 mask (including within patients) may be healthy for up to 8 hours and advises each customer to check each manufacturer's guidelines before pursuing this approach. In order to minimize the chances of soiling the mask, existing recommendations encourage wearing a face cover over the N95 mask.
Because coronaviruses dramatically lose their viability after 72 hours, a rotation and reuse strategy have been advocated by many organizations. The CDC recommends that masks should be reused up to 5 times with the following technique, assuming there is no soiling and minimum to no virus infection of the mask:
Acquire and rotate the set number of N95 masks (at least 5 per CDC) per day, allowing them to dry long enough for the virus to no longer be viable (> 72 hours). For this technique, proper storage involves either hanging the respirators to dry or storing them between uses in a clear, breathable jar like a paper bag. Be sure that the masks do not contact each other and that the respirator is not sharing with other users. Prior to each use, a user seal check should be done.
Importantly, exercise fastidious donning and doffing to prevent contamination of the inside or outside of the mask at all times while preparing to reuse an N-95 mask. The CDC advises discarding the mask if it is compromised or seriously polluted by aerosol-generating processes or bodily fluids.
The CDC is currently hands-on in researching mask decontamination strategies. The re-processing principle includes:
- The technique must inactivate the viral load on the mask adequately.
- The mask should not be soiled.
- It is important to maintain the filtration power and electrostatic charge as much as possible.
- The fit of the mask on the face should be compromised.
Most experiments were conducted with a flu virus or bacterial spores on N95 decontamination, and prudent extrapolation to the present pandemic is being exercised. Luckily, recent publications have begun to test SARS-CoV-2 directly and have found positive findings.
In certain cases, Business Insider has previously reported that healthcare staff is already forced to reuse the masks or wear them for long stretches of time, which the CDC has acknowledged may be dangerous.
The CDC and other government bodies have also suggested that N95 masks are not for the general public to use since medical practitioners who frequently face direct interaction with infectious persons need it the most. Instead, preventing the transmission of the infection by avoiding crowds and maintaining proper hygiene practices, such as regular hand-washing when it is required to be in public spaces, is more beneficial for the public.
It is important to visit the CDC and WHO for the latest up-to-date knowledge on N95 mask recommendations and the COVID-19 virus. Wearing face masks is really important; that is why N95 masks are the gold standard mask certified and approved by NIOSH. If you are a healthcare staff looking for N95 masks, you can buy it here!
Louie is the father behind the travel blog Browseeverywhere.com. He has a background in photography, E-commerce, and writing product reviews online at ConsumerReviews24. Traveling full time with his family was his ultimate past-time. If he’s not typing at his laptop, you can probably find him watching movies.