Introduction: During pandemic situations like the one caused by the emergent coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, healthcare systems face the challenge of limited personal protective equipment and impaired supply chains. This problem poses a threat to healthcare workers, first responders, and the public, which demands solutions that can span the gap between institutional shortages and resupplies. Objectives: To examine the efficacy of autoclave-based decontamination for the reuse of single-use surgical masks and N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs). This method is the most readily available form of decontamination in the hospital and laboratory settings. Methods: Three models of N95 FFRs and two procedural masks were evaluated in this study. A moist heat autoclave using four different autoclave cycles: 115°C for one hour, 121.1°C for 30 minutes, 130°C for two minutes, and 130°C for four minutes was used. After the autoclave process, the FFRs were NIOSH fit tested and particle counting was performed for both coarse particles of 5 micrometers (µM) and fine particles from 0.1µM to 1.0µM. Results: We observed negligible alterations in the functionality and integrity of 3M 1805 and 3M 1870/1870+ N95 FFRs after three autoclave cycles. Surgical masks also showed minimal changes in functionality and integrity. The 3M 1860 FFR failed fit test after a single autoclave decontamination cycle. Discussion and Conclusion: The study finds that specific surgical masks and N95 FFR models can withstand autoclave decontamination for up to three cycles. Additionally, the autoclave cycles tested were those that could be readily achieved by both clinical and research institutions.
- personal protective equipment
- surgical mask
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis