An N95 respirator is a great mask to protect from deadly variants. NIOSH has set strict guidelines for an N95 face mask manufacturer to adhere to given quality standards. There was a time during the Covid crisis when the availability of the masks had gone down due to very high demand and inadequate supplies. Due to this, people were looking to reuse N95 masks. It is with this requirement that the CDC came up with contingency and crisis based strategies.
Before you jump to conclusions, we would want to ask you, what exactly you are looking for. Are you looking for reuse, repurpose, or an extended scope of your N95 masks? So, let us understand these small intricate details.
1. Extended life: When there was a shortage of these masks, the guideline issued was that the N95 mask can be worn for up to 8 hours. A filthy or wet mask is also useless. As a result, the wearer must avoid getting his or her mask filthy or damp at all costs. To do so, current guidelines suggest that a wearer use a face shield over N95 to reduce moisture and sweat, reducing the likelihood of the mask becoming soiled.
2. Re-use: Coronaviruses, in general, have effective viability of about 72 hours. However, the Covid-19 variant can persist effectiveness for a week or so. Many organizations and medical experts have promoted the re-use strategy of a mask. It can be done by the following process:
• Mask Rotation: The people can buy 5-6 N95 masks and rotate their use, not using one mask for about a week (till the time effective viability of the virus is lost). The remaining masks should be stored properly, such as hanging them in a cool, dry location or placing them in a clean paper bag away from any contamination. After each use, the user seal must be checked. People shall make sure that the masks don't come into contact with each other. If your mask is badly polluted with aerosol-generating techniques or bodily fluids, the CDC recommends that you throw it away immediately.
You can carry out decontamination procedures for the N95 mask. As these N95 masks come in a variety of straps, it is possible that some of the procedures might not be applied to some of them. Let’s see what they are:
1. Hydrogen Peroxide Vaporization:
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the FDA approved this process for decontaminating N95 masks for healthcare professionals in an emergency. This approach is used on N95 masks, which do not have a cellulose deposition.
2. UV Treatment:
It necessitates a great deal of precision. As a result, UV therapy at home is not advised. This treatment can only be performed in a facility that follows particular dosage procedures and uses full surface area illumination to assure optimal viral particle inactivation with minimal mask degradation.
3. Moist Heat:
This technique isn't often used. To counteract the effect of corona variations, it requires a heating temperature as well as a humidity level. Due to a lack of standards on the protocol and settings required to eliminate those viruses, the mask's filtration level may be affected, hence it is rarely used.
To sum it up, there are no precise standards for reusing N95 masks in order to prolong their life. These are purely subjective guidelines by researchers across the globe. However, if the supply is plentiful, using these methods is pointless. You can use these measures if you face a scarcity of masks any time.