N95 Respirators Can Be Safely Decontaminated Up to 25 Times

January 7, 2022

N95 respirators reprocessed with vaporised hydrogen peroxide maintained their function and effectiveness through 25 cycles of reuse, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

In keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Boston, Massachusetts, re-used N95 respirators to ease supply constraints, employing vaporized hydrogen peroxide as a decontamination method.

“The findings from our study expand upon previous findings and show that vaporised hydrogen peroxide is a relatively safe method for reprocessing N95 respirators and could help address shortages in future epidemics,” said Christina F. Yen, MD, previously with BIDMC, now with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas. “It is important that we now find ways to scale and translate this disinfection capability to smaller hospitals and resource-limited healthcare settings that could benefit just as much -- perhaps more -- from this type of personal protective equipment reprocessing in future disaster scenarios.”

The researchers conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative tests to evaluate both the function and effectiveness of 7 different N95 respirators that were used by 3 male and 4 female volunteers between June 2020 and August of 2020. These tests comprised a user seal check (performed by subjects donning and doffing the respirators), qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing, and filtration efficiency testing, which assesses the ability of the respirator to filter out particles.

Even after 25 decontamination cycles, the researchers found no changes in respiratory integrity or filtration efficiency among the 7 different N95 respirators. All respirators met the primary endpoints of function and effectiveness, passing 25 user seal checks and eight quantitative and four qualitative fit tests, in addition to maintaining filtration efficiencies of ≥95% throughout the study.

The authors noted that successful, large-scale implementation of N95 respirator reprocessing requires planning and coordination, multidisciplinary teams to ensure disinfection efficacy and end-user safety, and significant logistical support.

“In order for reprocessing to be a realistic option for healthcare facilities, certain steps need to be taken,” said senior author Preeti Mehrotra, MD, BIDMC. “Reprocessing can be made possible by creating relationships among infection prevention, occupational health, environmental services, and other relevant departments within hospitals to facilitate implementation of appropriate technologies and advocating for the inclusion of personal protective equipment reprocessing in epidemic and pandemic planning.”

Reference: https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(21)00741-0/fulltext

SOURCE: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center