Respirator masks that filter pathogens at a level corresponding to N95/N100 (NIOSH USA) or FFP2/FFP3 (Europe) are necessary for various health care responses including COVID and TB.
In health care settings the most used respirator mask, often referred to simply as the N95, is considered a single use item (though short-term re-use may occur). Planetary health concerns relating to reliance on disposable single-use items have been increasing over the past few years with some organizations beginning to rethink procurement in line with a more environmentally aware approach.
The global COVID pandemic has resulted in an enormous increase in the use of N95/N100 respirators and resulting waste production. In addition, the pandemic exposed supply chain vulnerability, and the need to mitigate risks and ensure that medical staff always have access to the protection that they need. The reusable respirator has also been shown to offer enhanced safety for some individuals who are unable to maintain a good facial seal with a disposable respirator mask.
The use of reusable respirators, often referred to as elastomeric respirator masks as an alternative to the single use N95 mask has therefore been identified as a possible solution to many issues; improving safety, reducing freight and waste volume as well providing a cost-saving option that could be highly advantageous in resource poor settings.
While the elastomeric mask itself can last years, the mask requires small disc like filters to be placed in sealed cartridges on the front of the mask (usually 2). These filters need changing more often than the mask itself to ensure safe functioning. Guidance depends on the manufacturer but could range between changing filters every 2 months to every 12 months.
To ensure a sustainable supply of filters and therefore ensure staff have access to respiratory protection wherever they are, these filters should be available locally.
To 3D build affordable and accessible N95 filter capacity (or above) equivalent filters compatible with MSF procured elastomeric masks to ensure sustainable access to respiratory protection.
– Cheap to produce and distribute, ideally less than 1 CHF per unit.
– Environmentally friendly – using material which is biodegradable or at least less environmentally harmful than the current disposable options.
– Proven to meet necessary international standards for a respirator mask for health care setting. At least or higher than N95 (USA NIOSH)/FFP2 (Europe EN149-2001), P2 (Australia NZ).
– Proven splash resistance > or equal to 120mmHg.
– Easy to use by layman (non-medical) person
– Universal – potential to adapt technology to allow filter to be used on different elastomeric mask models.