You Can't Reuse This One Popular Type of Face Mask, Says FDA

This particular protective mask made should not be reused, according to experts.

Since the beginning of April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all of us wear face coverings outside of our homes, especially when entering high-trafficked indoor places like grocery stores. But one type of mask has caused some controversy: those with exhalation valves, which can allow for respiratory droplets that spread COVID-19 to be released into the air. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed some of its guidelines on mask procedures regarding these masks specifically. The FDA is warning that the very popular N95 masks, most often warn as personal protective equipment (PPE) by essential healthcare workers, should not be reused, especially if they have exhalation valves.

The FDA wants to make sure people know "that authorized respirators manufactured in China may vary in their design and performance," they said in a statement. As such, the FDA has determined that there is not enough information available on the decontamination of these respirators and has revised its guidelines "to no longer authorize decontamination or reuse of respirators that have exhalation valves."

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affair Anand Shah, MD, explained the revised guidelines in a statement, saying, "While we continue to support efforts to meet the urgent need for respirators, we are also doing everything in our authority to ensure health care personnel are adequately protected. As part of those efforts, we are announcing that we have revised and reissued a number of EUAs to amend which respirators are authorized to be decontaminated."

So, if you are relying on N95 masks to protect yourself and those around you from the COVID-19 contagion, do not reuse them since you may not be able to effectively decontaminate them, according to the FDA's revised facial mask guidelines. And for more on which masks are right for you, check out Every Face Mask You Can Buy—Ranked by Effectiveness.

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