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The shortage of FFP2 and FFP3 respirators posed a serious threat to the operation of the healthcare system at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Our aim was to develop and validate a large-scale facility that uses hydrogen peroxide vapour for the decontamination of used respirators.


A multidisciplinary and multisectoral ad hoc group of experts representing various organisations was assembled to implement the collection and transport of used FFP2 and FFP3 respirators from hospitals covering 86% of the Finnish population. A large-scale decontamination facility using hydrogen peroxide vapour was designed and constructed. Microbiological tests were used to confirm efficacy of hydrogen peroxide vapour decontamination together with a test to assess the effect of decontamination on the filtering efficacy and fit of respirators. Bacterial and fungal growth in stored respirators was determined by standard methods.


Large-scale hydrogen peroxide vapour decontamination of a range of FFP2 and FFP3 respirator models effectively reduced the recovery of biological indicators: and spores, as well as model virus bacteriophage MS2. The filtering efficacy and facial fit after hydrogen peroxide vapour decontamination were not affected by the process. Microbial growth in the hydrogen peroxide vapour-treated respirators indicated appropriate microbial cleanliness.


Large-scale hydrogen peroxide vapour decontamination was validated. After effective decontamination, no significant changes in the key properties of the respirators were detected. European Union regulations should incorporate a facilitated pathway to allow reuse of appropriately decontaminated respirators in a severe pandemic when unused respirators are not available.


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