COVID-19 compliance concerns – Part 2 on PPE

Aug. 26, 2020 / By Barbara Aubry, RN

I know y’all don’t want to hear from me twice in one month, but I saw a report recently that I had to share following the  concerns I discussed in my recent blog about updating policies and procedures for purchasing legitimate personal protective equipment (PPE)—especially N95 respirators and other protective masks.

The report is summarized in an August 11 article from MedPage Today titled “Running Low on New N95s? Reach for These Alternatives—some worked almost as well in a lab study.”

“Expired as well as fresh N95 respirators cleaned with hydrogen peroxide solution retained over 95% of fitted filtration efficiency, a small laboratory study found. N95 respirators in the wrong size had around 90%-95% fitted filtration efficiency, while two imported respirators authorized by the CDC, but not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), were much less effective, reported Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, of UNC Healthcare in Chapel Hill, and colleagues writing in JAMA Internal Medicine.” 

Drs. Caitlin Dugdale, MD, and Rochelle Walensky, MD, of The Massachusetts General Hospital noted the study findings to be “reassuring evidence” of the performance of non-standard approaches to “preserving the N95 mask supply.” This is important information since the N95s are scarce and more costly than other masks that were tested.

The good news (and I am a proud 3Mer):

“Among the “commonly used” products tested, the MAXAIR Controlled Air Purifying Respirator, the Halyard Health N95, and the 3M 1870+ Aura all blocked more than 99% of particles. Two other 3M products (8210 and 1860) showed efficiencies of between 97% and 99%. As well, 3M 1860 and 8210 respirators that expired in 2009 and 2011, along with newer 3M products sanitized with ethylene oxide or vaporized hydrogen peroxide, both retained fitted filtration efficiency rates over 95%. These rates were comparable to those found with new 3M N95 respirators.

Among less commonly used products, the researchers found seven that exceeded 95% efficiency: two Dasheng models, two from 3M, and three from lesser known manufacturers. All are NIOSH approved.

But none of the new-in-the-box respirators not approved by NIOSH—including the Dasheng DTC-3X-1 and DTC-3X-2 that the CDC authorized—achieved 95% fitted filtration efficiency. The DTC-3X1 with ear loops was about 80%, and the DTC-3X2 with ear loops was about 77%. For two KN95 masks tested, one had efficiency of 85% and the other 53%.”

The study also revealed that the old fashion tie on masks fared much better than the more popular ear-loop masks at 72 and 38 percent effectiveness, respectively.

Hopefully, this study will assist administrators, supply chain managers and hospital epidemiologists in making evidence-based decisions regarding the purchase of masks to protect clinicians and other health care workers. Just be certain to purchase from trusted suppliers.

Barbara Aubry is a senior regulatory analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.

Visit the 3M HIS COVID-19 resource page.