July 22, 2021

Proposed NIOSH Study Would Examine Use of EHMRs During COVID-19

A new project proposed by NIOSH would use surveys and interviews to study how elastomeric half-mask respirators are being perceived and used by healthcare workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. EHMRs, tight-fitting respirators made of synthetic or rubber material, can be repeatedly disinfected, cleaned, and reused. Elastomeric respirators are identified by CDC as alternatives to disposable half-mask filtering facepiece respirators, such as N95 FFRs, for augmenting the supply of respirators available for use in healthcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC stresses that elastomeric respirators are not cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fluid resistance but can provide “at least equivalent protection to N95 FFRs” based on their NIOSH approval.

NIOSH’s proposed project would focus on assessing the integration of EHMRs in healthcare and first responder settings. The study results would help inform updates and improvements to best practices and implementation guidelines for EHMRs, with the goal of reducing personal protective equipment supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.

The proposed project is further described in a Federal Register notice. Individuals who wish to provide feedback on the project can submit comments by Sept. 17.