Reusable respirators may be acceptable alternative to disposable ones, study says

Tribune Content Agency

With disposable N95 respirators currently in high demand amid the coronavirus outbreak, a recently published study has indicated reusable respirators might be a suitable alternative.

The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Centers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Atlanta’s Emory University, as well as Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, was published in the journal JAMA.

“Training and fit testing health care providers on respirators can be time consuming, and in an epidemic we want to train and fit test a large number of workers quickly,” first and corresponding author Dr. Lisa A. Pompeii, professor of pediatrics–epidemiology at Baylor, said in a press release.

The study found that time was not a hindrance to health care workers learning to use Elastomeric half-mask respirators (EHMRs), which are used in construction and manufacturing but not widely used in health care.

Researchers compared how long it took to fit and train health care workers in using disposable respirators compared to the reusable EHMRs, which provide the same level of protection as N95 masks. Researchers discovered health care personnel quickly learned to use the reusable respirator, and it did not take longer to test fit them than it would for disposable ones.

“Our study shows that training and fit testing workers on these reusable respirators does not represent a barrier for possible use by hospitals,” Pompeii said. “An advantage of reusable respirators is that there is no need to stockpile them.”

Reports of shortages emerged earlier this month as health care workers said they had been asked to reuse and ration their disposable masks and gloves, the Associated Press reported.

Various organizations have rallied to make masks for people in health care to use. Medical television series, like the metro Atlanta-filmed “The Resident,” have donated medical supplies.

Pompeii and her colleagues are currently studying how to understand the best method to disinfect EHMRs in health care settings, for which more research is needed.


©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.