As large quantities of stockpiled personal protective equipment (PPE) from previous nationwide public health responses may now be exceeding its shelf life, NIOSH is requesting information about the environmental storage conditions and inventory of PPE for federal, state, municipal, county, and hospital system stockpiles. The agency will use the information to inform the design of a study in which researchers will sample N95 respirators and high-protection level surgical gowns from stockpiles and test the PPE against established performance standards. NIOSH’s study is intended to assess the potential to extend manufacturer-recommended shelf life and the effect of common stockpile conditions on the protections provided by N95s and surgical gowns.
“Resource limitations may lead facilities to stockpile PPE in environments that do not meet manufacturer storage recommendations or exceed shelf life, increasing the potential for PPE degradation,” NIOSH’s request for information reads. “Even when resources exist to store PPE per manufacturer's environmental recommendations, the influence of long-term storage time alone on PPE performance has been questioned.”
The agency hopes to learn the extent to which stockpiles implement and maintain environmental controls, how staff monitors for the deterioration of N95s and high-level protective surgical gowns, and stockpiles’ processes for obtaining information on storage practices from distributors. Commenters are also encouraged to provide information on their process for PPE rotation, the types of controls available in the shipping environment, and the types and quantities of PPE that may be affected by this research.
The comment period is open until April 24, 2017. Further details are available in the Federal Register notice.