Archive | 2021
Covid-19 respiratory protection: the filtration efficiency assessment of decontaminated FFP2 masks responding to associated shortages
During the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare workers were extremely vulnerable to infection with the virus and needed continuous protection. One of the most effective and widely used means of protection was the FFP2 respirator. Unfortunately, this crisis created a shortage of these masks, prompting hospitals to explore opportunities to reuse them after decontamination. An approach for assessing the filtration efficiency of decontaminated FFP2 masks has been proposed and applied to evaluate the possibilities of their safe reuse. The decontamination processes adopted are those based on moist heat or hydrogen peroxide. The approach introduces efficiency measures that define the filtration and protection capacity of the masks, which characterize both chemical and structural changes, and encompasses many techniques including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transforms infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). The test protocol was applied to mask samples that had endured different decontamination cycles and the results of their efficiency measures were compared to brand-new masks performances. The main result was that chemical and structural characterization of the decontaminated masks have shown no substantial change or deformation of their filter media structures. Indeed, the respiratory resistance test has shown that the results of both the FFP2 masks that have undergone a hydrogen peroxide disinfection cycle or a steam autoclave cycle remained constant with a small variation of 10 Pa from the EN149 standard. The chemical characterization, on the other hand, has shown that the filter media of the decontaminated masks remains unchanged, with no detectable chemical derivatives in its constituents.