Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) are not approved for routine decontamination and reuse as standard of care. However, FFR decontamination and reuse may need to be considered as a crisis capacity strategy to ensure continued availability. Based on the limited research available, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, vaporous hydrogen peroxide, and moist heat showed the most promise as potential methods to decontaminate FFRs. This document summarizes research about decontamination of FFRs before reuse. Introduction: Reusing disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) has been suggested as a crisis capacity strategy to conserve available supplies for healthcare environments during a pandemic. Strategies for FFR extended use and reuse (without decontamination of the respirator) are currently available from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The surfaces of an FFR may become contaminated while filtering the inhalation air of the wearer during exposures to pathogen-laden aerosols. The pathogens on the filter materials of the FFR may be transferred to the wearer upon contact with the FFR during activities such as adjusting the FFR, improper doffing of the FFR, or when performing a user-seal check when redoffing a previously worn FFR. A study evaluating the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) on plastic, stainless steel, and carboard surfaces showed that the virus is able to survive for up to 72-hours . One strategy to mitigate the contact transfer of pathogens from the FFR to the wearer during reuse is to issue five respirators to each healthcare worker who may care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The healthcare worker will wear one respirator each day and store it in a breathable paper bag at the end of each shift. The order of FFR use should be repeated with a minimum of five days between each FFR use. This will result in each worker requiring a minimum of five FFRs, providing that they put on, take off, care for them, and store them properly each day. Healthcare workers should treat the FFRs as though they are still contaminated and follow the precautions outlined in our reuse recommendations. If supplies are even more constrained and five respirators are not available for each worker who needs them, FFR decontamination may be necessary.