Ultraviolet-C and other methods of decontamination of filtering facepiece N-95 respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic
During global health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, the decontamination of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) becomes a necessary means to keep up with the growing demand from healthcare workers and patients alike. Many unverified methods are being considered, which can pose the risk of incomplete decontamination and lead to catastrophic results. Several factors come into play when determining the suitability of such methods including the quality of the decontamination technique, the targeted pathogen, cost, ease of installation and use, rate of sterilization, and the surface or material to be sterilized. The germicidal properties of ultraviolet-C are well known. This review will cover the most commonly described methods for the sterilization of N95 respirators, namely, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, hydrogen peroxide vaporization, microwave-generated steaming, and dry heating. These techniques have been tested previously and have demonstrated efficacy in reducing or inactivating viral and bacterial pathogens, although testing against SARS-CoV-2 specifically has not been done. Moreover, it must be emphasized that proper disposal after a single use is still ideal under normal circumstances.