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Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2: risks linked to the reuse and prolonged wearing of single-use face masks

The reprocessing of single-use face masks (surgical face masks or N95/FFP2s) and arrangements for their reuse within the healthcare settings or within other industrial sectors may pose a risk.

The HCSP is evaluating the current activities identified by a specific national mission and the recommendations formulated by the ANSM agency and relevant learned national societies (French Society for Hospital Hygiene SF2H, French society for pharmaceutical sciences SF2S).

The possible reprocessing procedures (chemical and physical; collective and individual) and their respective limits (maintenance of mask performance, microbiological efficacy and logistics) are described, along with the professionals concerned by the reuse of masks. To date, no complete sterilisation process is available. A number of experiments remain at the trial phase, mainly those involving N95/FFP masks, which cannot be subjected to an initial washing phase without losing their filtration properties.

Based on a review of the recommendations issued in France and in other countries, the HCSP describes the various risks that have been identified and lists possible alternatives to their reuse.

In the current context of the Covid-19 epidemic and the reduction in pressures on supply, the HCSP does not recommend the use of reprocessed masks in healthcare and medico-social settings. It recommends that the recycling of masks should only be considered within the framework of official specifications and under approval validated by a national agency.

It recommends that research should be continued in France, in healthcare and industrial settings, and that this should cover face masks worn under real-life conditions. It calls for the secure collection and transport of used face masks in order to prevent staff becoming infected.

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