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Impact of three biological decontamination methods on filtering facepiece respirator fit, odor, comfort, and donning ease.

Viscusi DJ; Bergman MS; Novak DA; Faulkner KA; Palmiero A; Powell J; Shaffer RE
J Occup Environ Hyg 2011 Jul; 8(7):426-436
The objective of this study was to determine if ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), moist heat incubation (MHI), or microwave-generated steam (MGS) decontamination affects the fitting characteristics, odor, comfort, or donning ease of six N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) models. For each model, 10 experienced test subjects qualified for the study by passing a standard OSHA quantitative fit test. Once qualified, each subject performed a series of fit tests to assess respirator fit and completed surveys to evaluate odor, comfort, and donning ease with FFRs that were not decontaminated (controls) and with FFRs of the same model that had been decontaminated. Respirator fit was quantitatively measured using a multidonning protocol with the TSI PORTACOUNT Plus and the N95 Companion accessory (designed to count only particles resulting from face to face-seal leakage). Participants' subjective appraisals of the respirator's odor, comfort, and donning ease were captured using a visual analog scale survey. Wilcoxon signed rank tests compared median values for fit, odor, comfort, and donning ease for each FFR and decontamination method against their respective controls for a given model. Two of the six FFRs demonstrated a statistically significant reduction (p less than 0.05) in fit after MHI decontamination. However, for these two FFR models, postdecontamination mean fit factors were still greater than or equal to 100. One of the other FFRs demonstrated a relatively small though statistically significant increase (p less than 0.05) in median odor response after MHI decontamination. These data suggest that FFR users with characteristics similar to those in this study population would be unlikely to experience a clinically meaningful reduction in fit, increase in odor, increase in discomfort, or increased difficulty in donning with the six FFRs included in this study after UVGI, MHI, or MGS decontamination. Further research is needed before decontamination of N95 FFRs for purposes of reuse can be recommended.
Respirators; Respiratory-equipment; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Decontamination; Ultraviolet-radiation; Irradiation; Germicides; Heat; Microwave-radiation; Steam-generators; Face-masks; Filters; Odors; Equipment-design; Equipment-reliability; Humans; Testing-equipment; Quantitative-analysis; Biological-agents; Infection-control; Infectious-diseases; Author Keywords: comfort; health care workers; N95 decontamination; N95 respirator fit; pandemic influenza; respirator reuse
Ronald E. Shaffer, Technology Research Branch, National Personal Protective Technology Lab, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 626 Cochrans Mill Road, Building 29, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
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Healthcare and Social Assistance
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division