N95 respirators can be reprocessed to increase supply in future epidemics, study suggests

A common type of N95 respirator can be safely reprocessed up to 25 times using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, a study published Jan. 5 in the Journal of Infection Control found.

Researchers used vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate seven N95 respirators that were used by three male and four female volunteers from June to August of 2020, and conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative tests evaluating both function and effectiveness.

Tests included a user seal check, qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing, and filtration efficiency testing. Even after 25 decontamination cycles, researchers found no changes in respiratory integrity or filtration efficiency among the seven respirators.

"The findings from our study expand upon previous findings and show that VHP is a relatively safe method for reprocessing N95 respirators and could help address shortages in future epidemics," Christina F. Yen, MD, the study's lead author, said in a news release. "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."

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