The purpose of this article is to highlight the possible alternative types of respirators for use in healthcare workplaces to help protect workers from infectious airborne biological particles, such as viruses and bacteria.
When respiratory protection is recommended to help reduce exposure to biological hazards, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) often recommend respirators at least as protective as an N95, FFP2, or similar particulate respirator. All filtering facepiece respirators that are certified as N95, FFP2, KN95, or similar can, when properly selected and worn, effectively filter airborne biological particles such as viruses and bacteria.2-5 Surgical filtering facepiece respirators are also cleared as surgical masks by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Union Notified Bodies, or an equivalent authority in other countries.
Healthcare facilities often standardize on approved surgical filtering facepiece particulate respirators, sometimes also referred to as surgical N95s, healthcare respirators or medical respirators, for workers providing patient care. However, during disease outbreaks, or public health disasters, availability of approved surgical filtering facepiece respirators may become limited and organizations should evaluate whether other, more readily available, respirators would be appropriate for use. In many situations, it can be appropriate for healthcare workers to use respirators other than surgical or standard filtering facepiece respirators. The CDC indicates that healthcare facilities should consider and use alternatives to N95 respirators where feasible and appropriate. These include other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, elastomeric half-facepiece and full facepiece air purifying respirators and powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). All of these alternatives will provide equivalent or higher respiratory protection than N95 respirators when properly selected and worn.
There are three types of respirator for use in healthcare include:
Here are some considerations to help healthcare organizations determine whether these other respirator types might work within their respiratory protection program.
|Key Potential Advantages|
|Key Potential Limitations|
|Non-surgical filtering facepiece respirators|
|All 3M filtering facepiece respirators can filter biological particles, including these classes:|
|Any 3M elastomeric facepiece equipped with appropriate 3M particulate filters, per applicable regulatory approvals, including:|
|Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs)|
|All 3M PAPR particulate filters can filter biological particles|