N95 respirators can be safely reused after decontamination up to 25 times, study finds

Grocery Outlet's Kasandra Berry, wears an N95 mask while helping to bag groceries last week in Grass Valley, Calif.

Grocery Outlet's Kasandra Berry, wears an N95 mask while helping to bag groceries last week in Grass Valley, Calif. (Elias Funez, The Union via AP)

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TORONTO, Ontario — A new study has found that N95 respirators, commonly used in hospitals to protect health care workers from infectious pathogens such as COVID-19, can maintain their function and effectiveness up to 25 cycles of reuse upon decontamination.

Even after 25 decontamination cycles, researchers found no changes in respiratory integrity or filtration efficiency.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Infection Control, involved health care staff repurposing N95 respirators by using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, a common disinfectant, to decontaminate them.

"(Vaporized hydrogen peroxide) is a relatively safe method for reprocessing N95 respirators, and could help address shortages in future epidemics," Dr. Christina F. Yen, infectious diseases physician and lead author of the study, said in a news release.

"It is important that we now find ways to scale and translate this capability to smaller hospitals and resource-limited health care settings that could benefit just as much – perhaps more – from this type of personal protective equipment reprocessing in future disaster scenarios."

Such information could be beneficial to health care facilities with limited access to personal protective equipment, as has been the case at times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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