COVID-19: This Respirator Hospitals Use Can Protect You Too

How to get the level of protection against COVID-19 that hospital workers get.

Posted Jun 30, 2020

Industrial respirators offer a medical-grade level of protection against COVID-19. Since publishing a recent blog post on the topic, I came across information that industrial respirators are being used in hospitals when N95 respirators are in short supply.

A New York Times article states, "As the virus raged in China, Yale hospital administrators bought about 1,200 of the reusable silicone masks, known as elastomeric respirators, and gave them to doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists starting in March." The Times quoted Dr. Elaine Fajardo, a pulmonary and critical care physician as saying, “I think these really saved us from a crisis.” 

These respirators are being used also because staff feel better protected. A University of Maryland Hospital study found most of the staff preferred these respirators as they "scored highest in sense of protection from disease and confidence that the respirator will protect."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also published advice on using these respirators for COVID-19 saying these respirators "provide at least the same level of protection as N95 FFRs, and some types of elastomeric respirators can offer higher assigned protection factors than N95 FFRs."

The disposable respirators used in hospitals are not available to the public because, being disposable, they are in short supply. But there is no shortage of these industrial respirators because they are reusable and their cartridge filters last for months. These respirators can be equipped with a variety of cartridges including N95, and even better, N100 filter cartridges that filter out 100% — or very close to 100% — of particles that are contaminated with the COVID-19 virus.

There are a lot of respirators of this type on the market. They are available on Amazon, eBay, etc. After doing a few hours on the internet, I purchased is a 3M series 6000 respirator. There are three sizes. 3M says the medium size fits 80% of the adult population. Also consider the 3M series 7500 because these aim the air being exhaled downward, rather than forward toward other persons.

The filters, which are sold separately, are either box or disc-shaped. Filter ratings are determined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The letter N means not oil resistant. R means oil resistant, and P means oil-proof. The number following the letter is the filtering power. An N95 filter removes 95% of 0.3 micron particles. A N100 filter removes 99.98% of 0.3 micron particles. The 0.3 micron size is used for testing because it is the most difficult particle size to filter. Particles smaller than 0.3 micron or larger than 0.3 micron are easier to filter out, which means the filter will block a high percentage of any other size particle. An N,R, or P95 or 100 is considered adequate for COVID-19.

For more information, go to my original post.