Scientific Reports (Jun 2021)

Assessing the impact of multiple ultraviolet disinfection cycles on N95 filtering facepiece respirator integrity

  • C. Carolina Ontiveros,
  • Crystal L. Sweeney,
  • Christopher Smith,
  • Sean MacIsaac,
  • Jessica L. Bennett,
  • Sebastian Munoz,
  • Amina K. Stoddart,
  • Graham A. Gagnon

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 9


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Abstract During the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) were recommended to protect healthcare workers when providing care to infected patients. Despite their single-use disposable nature, the need to disinfect and repurpose FFRs is paramount during this global emergency. The objectives of this study were to (1) determine if UV treatment has an observable impact on respirator integrity; (2) test the impact of UV treatment on N95 FFR user fit; and (3) test the impact of UV treatment on FFR integrity. Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection was assessed in maintaining N95 FFR integrity. Two models of FFRs were exposed to UV fluences ranging from 0 to 10,000 mJ cm−2 per side and subsequently tested for fit, respirator integrity, and airflow. Inspection of N95 FFRs before and after UV treatment via microscopy methods showed no observable or tactile abnormalities in the integrity of respirator material or straps. Tensile loading tests on UV-treated and untreated respirator straps also demonstrated no impact on breaking strength. Standardized fit test methods showed no compromise in user fit following UV treatment. Evaluation of particle penetration and airflow through N95 FFRs showed no impact on integrity, and average filtration efficiency did not fall below 95% for any of the respirator types or fluence levels. This work provides evidence that UV disinfection does not compromise N95 FFR integrity at UV fluences up to 10,000 mJ cm−2. UV disinfection is a viable treatment option to support healthcare professionals in their strategy against the spread of COVID-19.