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Evaluation of microwave steam bags for the decontamination of filtering facepiece respirators.

Fisher-EM; Williams-JL; Shaffer-RE
PLoS One 2011 Apr; 6(4):e18585
Reusing filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) has been suggested as a strategy to conserve available supplies for home and healthcare environments during an influenza pandemic. For reuse to be possible, used FFRs must be decontaminated before redonning to reduce the risk of virus transmission; however, there are no approved methods for FFR decontamination. An effective method must reduce the microbial threat, maintain the function of the FFR, and present no residual chemical hazard. The method should be readily available, inexpensive and easily implemented by healthcare workers and the general public. Many of the general decontamination protocols used in healthcare and home settings are unable to address all of the desired qualities of an efficient FFR decontamination protocol. The goal of this study is to evaluate the use of two commercially available steam bags, marketed to the public for disinfecting infant feeding equipment, for FFR decontamination. The FFRs were decontaminated with microwave generated steam following the manufacturers' instructions then evaluated for water absorption and filtration efficiency for up to three steam exposures. Water absorption of the FFR was found to be model specific as FFRs constructed with hydrophilic materials absorbed more water. The steam had little effect on FFR performance as filtration efficiency of the treated FFRs remained above 95%. The decontamination efficacy of the steam bag was assessed using bacteriophage MS2 as a surrogate for a pathogenic virus. The tested steam bags were found to be 99.9% effective for inactivating MS2 on FFRs; however, more research is required to determine the effectiveness against respiratory pathogens.
Bioactivation; Decontamination; Face-masks; Filter-materials; Microbiology; Microscopic-analysis; Microscopy; Microwave-ovens; Microwave-radiation; Pathogenesis; Physiological-response; Pulmonary-system; Respiratory-equipment; Respiratory-protection; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Safety-measures
Edward M. Fisher, National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, P.O. Box 18070, Bldg. 20, Rm 306, 626 Cochrans Mill Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
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Journal Article
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Fiscal Year
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Healthcare and Social Assistance
Source Name
Public Library of Science One
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division