November 19, 2020

NIOSH Approves First Elastomeric Half Mask Respirator Without Exhalation Valve

NIOSH has approved the first elastomeric half mask respirator (EHMR) without an exhalation valve, the agency announced via email on Nov. 16. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns that respirators with exhalation valves may allow unfiltered, exhaled air to escape into the environment, which would mean that they do not offer source control to protect others in case the wearer is infected with SARS-CoV-2. Both NIOSH and manufacturers have been working to address these concerns—NIOSH by conducting research and manufacturers by working to produce an elastomeric respirator that addresses concerns related to exhalation valves.

According to NIOSH, the first EHMR without an exhalation valve is approved for use with either P95 or P100 particulate filters (NIOSH approval numbers TC-84A-9260, TC-84A-9261, TC-84A-9256, and TC-84A-9257). It can be used for both personal protection and source control, and can be cleaned and disinfected. In addition, NIOSH notes that the particulate filters are available with an integrated splash guard to “improve the ease of completing a user seal check, to help protect from liquids, and to aid in wiping down the filter housing with disinfectant.”

See the agency’s Certified Equipment List for more information on NIOSH-approved respirators.