New technique to evaluate decontamination methods for filtering facepiece respirators

Published:January 29, 2021DOI:


      • Both ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and moist heat decontamination methods did not degrade the respirator performance.
      • The ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and moist heat methods inactivated MS2 virus (>5-log reduction) consistently.
      • UV decon efficacy order: aerosol-based >vapor-based >solution-based deposition.
      • Generally, decontamination efficacy order: hydrophilic filtering facepiece respirator slightly >hydrophobic filtering facepiece respirator.
      • All 3 varying virus loading types could be repeatably and reproducibly achieved.



      A major concern among health care experts is a shortage of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) during a pandemic. One option for mitigating an FFR shortage is to decontaminate and reuse the devices. The focus of this study was to develop a new evaluation technique based on 3 major decontamination requirements: (1) inactivating viruses, (2) not altering the respirator properties, and (3) not leaving any toxic byproduct on the FFR.


      Hydrophilic and hydrophobic FFRs were contaminated with MS2 virus. In the solution-based deposition, the virus-containing liquid droplets were spiked directly onto FFRs, while in the vapor-based and aerosol-based depositions, the viral particles were loaded onto FFRs using a bio-aerosol testing system. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) and moist heat (MH) decontamination methods were used for inactivation of viruses applied to FFRs.


      Both UVGI and MH methods inactivated viruses (>5-log reduction of MS2 virus; in 92% of both method experiments, the virus was reduced to levels below the detection limit), did not alter the respirator properties, and did not leave any toxic byproduct on the FFRs.


      Both UVGI and MH methods could be considered as promising decontamination candidates for inactivation of viruses for respirator reuse during shortages.

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