NIOSH approves first elastomeric half-mask respirator without an exhalation valve

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First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Washington — NIOSH has approved – for both personal protection and source control – the first elastomeric half-mask respirator without an exhalation valve.

In a Nov. 16 agency news brief, NIOSH acknowledges concerns that filtering facepiece respirators and EHMRs with exhalation valves “may allow unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the environment,” compromising the equipment’s effectiveness to protect others if the wearer has COVID-19.

NIOSH notes that exhalation in EHMRs without exhalation valves is possible because the equipment’s particulate filters meet agency requirements, “thereby allowing it to also serve as a means of source control since it will maintain the high level of filtration upon exhalation.”

NIOSH published in the Sept. 14 Federal Register a Request for Information on the deployment and use of EHMRs in health care settings and emergency medical services organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial comment period was slated to end Oct. 14, but the agency extended it to Dec. 14.

Noting EHMRs’ low cost, ease of use, and ability to be cleaned and decontaminated, NIOSH anticipates the widespread use of the respirators will ease the demand for single-use N95 respirators in health care settings that are experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 cases.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Protect your skin

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First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Do you work with wet cement, paints or plaster? Maybe adhesives? These are just some of the materials that can irritate your skin because they can contain harsh substances such as hexavalent chromium, calcium hydroxide, toluene, xylene, epoxy resins and lime. This can result in burns, dermatitis and other skin disorders, and even cancer.

Symptoms of skin disorders include:

  • Red and/or swollen hands or fingers
  • Cracked or itchy skin
  • Crusting or thickening of the skin
  • Blisters
  • Flaky or scaly skin
  • Burns

Here’s how you can protect your skin:
Prevent exposure. Try to keep your arms and clothes dry. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, coveralls and boots. If you work outdoors, always apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Clean your hands and skin before applying the sunscreen.
Wear gloves. Make sure you’re using the right glove for the materials you’re handling. The gloves should fit and keep your hands clean and dry.
Keep your skin clean. Wash your hands with soap and clean water if you come in contact with a hazardous substance. Use a pH neutral soap if you work with wet cement or other caustics.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Protect your skin

skin-protection.jpg

Do you work with wet cement, paints or plaster? Maybe adhesives? These are just some of the materials that can irritate your skin because they can contain harsh substances such as hexavalent chromium, calcium hydroxide, toluene, xylene, epoxy resins and lime. This can result in burns, dermatitis and other skin disorders, and even cancer.

Symptoms of skin disorders include:

  • Red and/or swollen hands or fingers
  • Cracked or itchy skin
  • Crusting or thickening of the skin
  • Blisters
  • Flaky or scaly skin
  • Burns

Here’s how you can protect your skin:
Prevent exposure. Try to keep your arms and clothes dry. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, coveralls and boots. If you work outdoors, always apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Clean your hands and skin before applying the sunscreen.
Wear gloves. Make sure you’re using the right glove for the materials you’re handling. The gloves should fit and keep your hands clean and dry.
Keep your skin clean. Wash your hands with soap and clean water if you come in contact with a hazardous substance. Use a pH neutral soap if you work with wet cement or other caustics.

‘Extremely hazardous’: Alert warns against using ethylene oxide to sterilize masks, respirators

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Photo: nanthm/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — Ethylene oxide should not be used to sterilize filtering facepiece respirators for reuse because “this extremely hazardous toxic chemical poses a severe risk to human health,” the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries warns in a new alert.

Citing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington L&I cautions health care employers and other who sterilize respirators for reuse that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen that “has been linked to neurologic dysfunction and may cause other harmful effects” to the eyes, lungs, brain and nervous system. Further, prolonged exposure could lead to increased risk of reproductive issues and some cancers.

Washington L&I notes that ethylene oxide sterilization systems have not been approved by federal OSHA for personal protective equipment, and evidence suggests using one could result in off-gassing of ethylene oxide in the wearer’s breathing zone.

Although hospitals and clinics are required to use their ethylene oxide sterilizer systems for their intended and manufacturer-approved purposes, they “must NOT be used to sterilize masks, respirators, PPE or items worn by humans,” the alert states.

A shortage of N95 and other filtering facepiece respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic has led some health care facilities to sterilize PPE so it can be reused. In April, the National Institutes of Health recommended three effective methods for sanitizing N95 respirators for limited reuse: vaporized hydrogen peroxide, 70° C dry heat and ultraviolet light.

PPE users should refer to the CDC guidance on optimizing N95 respirator supplies and the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations regarding PPE for COVID-19, the alert adds.