Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice (Baltimore, Md.) | 2021
Use of Industrial Filters by Health Care Workers During Shortages of N95 Respirators in Pandemic Times
Abstract The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a significant shortage of personal protective equipment in multiple health care facilities around the world, with the highest impact on N95 respirator masks. The N95 respirator is a mask that blocks at least 95% of very small (0.3 μm) particles and is considered a standard for enhanced respiratory precautions. The N95 mask shortage has created a need for other options for nasal and oral respiratory protection with similar filtration efficiency and “medical-grade” clearance, which can be used in health care settings. However, the literature around various filter types, their filtration capabilities, and the organizations certifying their use is dense, confusing, and not easily accessible to the public. Here, we synthesize relevant literature to analyze and disseminate information on (1) alternative viable filter options to N95s, (2) the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certification process, (3) the relationship of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certification to Food and Drug Administration certification of filtration devices and surgical masks, and (4) how this relationship may affect future filtration usage in the medical community during a pandemic. Analysis of these standards is meant to inform regarding evidence of respirator efficacy but does not imply any official endorsement of these alternatives. With this article, we illuminate viable alternative respirator options during the COVID-19 pandemic to help alleviate the dependency on N95 face masks.