By Jason Van Dyke
Everyone in the safety and industrial hygiene industry knows how useful N95 respirators have been. Often referred to as a “filtering facepiece,” their protection and disposable nature has proven invaluable in many situations. In the medical world, both R95 and P95 respirators are used to the same effect but are also rated to be oil and fluid resistant.
N95 respirators are not classified as being fluid resistant, only filtering out particulates. But new research from The American Journal of Infection Control, published at the end of 2015, has shown them to be resistant to penetration by blood. Specifically, four out of six N95 respirators cleared by the FDA as surgical masks were tested and found to be resistant to penetration by synthetic blood sprayed at multiple velocities.
The results indicate that several NIOSH-approved N95 models would likely pass FDA clearance requirements for resistance to synthetic blood penetration. What this means is that in a healthcare emergency this could supplement the supply of respirators for workers who need protection from occupational exposure to sprays and splashes of blood and potentially infectious body fluids in public health emergencies like large-scale flu outbreaks.
As noted by the paper, the availability of surgical N95 respirators can potentially be increased by incorporating FDA clearance requirements in the NIOSH respirator approval process.
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