We’re happy to report on another project, this time with the EMP Research and Manufacturing Institute involving 8 thousand N95 respirators which stemmed serendipitously from our collaboration with Norwex on their “A Million Masks. A Million Thank Yous” campaign.
Over the last few days, we’ve been working with our distribution partners to ensure the remaining boxes of the 1 million medical masks graciously donated by Norwex reach their destinations across the US. While clearing their warehouse, staff of Norwex’s EMP Research and Manufacturing Institute in Texas uncovered 8000 NIOSH/FDA approved N95 respirators, originally intended for indefinite storage as all of these N95s had exceeded their printed expiration dates. After combing the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and identifying potential recipients for these respirators, DonatePPE.org coordinated the shipment of these respirators to New Mexico Presbyterian Hospital System. The respirators reached hospital staff at the main hospital in Alberqurque last Friday- from there, they’ll undergo vetting and enter circulation to protect nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists throughout their hospital network.
The use of expired N95s is an interesting subject only faced most recently due to the nationwide PPE shortage. Officials report that despite exceeding printed expiration dates, expired N95 respirators are oftentimes safe to use in the care of COVID patients. A CDC article from April 16, reported the results of rigorous testing on several models of N95 respirators manufactured between 2003 and 2013 by 3M, Gerson, Medline/Alpha Protech, and Moldex in accordance with NIOSH performance standards for filtration efficiency, inhalation/exhalation resistance, and fit testing. From these tests, even those N95s that exceed their manufacturer-designated shelf life by over 10 years, continue to perform in accordance with NIOSH standards, and are thereby fit for use in COVID patient encounters.
In a BusinessInsider article from March 2020, Dr. John Balmes, professor of environmental health science at Berkeley Public Health, spoke on respirators and their purported expiration dates. “N95 masks really don’t expire in terms of their functionality. The only part that is subject to damage over time are the elastic bands that attach the mask to the user’s face, which can be damaged by sunlight.” Dr. Balmes emphasized that respirators stored “in a dark, dry place” are likely to maintain NIOSH performance standards, as the filter material composing the respirators themselves are “inert”, a term referring to their stability.
With the industry rife with counterfeits and price-gouging, facilities in underserved communities can have a difficult time trying to order PPE for healthcare workers. Navigating the current PPE market is challenging, and requires vetting innumerable producers, competing against larger healthcare networks and hospitals, and ultimately being met with inflated prices. A donation like this from EMP is pivotal to hospital operations: “Much of New Mexico is extremely rural, with fewer resources than most [other states]”, said Stephanie Hines of Presbyterian Hospital donation services. “With your donation, we are able to ensure that our providers in all of our hospitals are protected and can continue caring for our loved ones”.
Presbyterian is a not-for-profit hospital network, the largest healthcare system that’s been serving the state of New Mexico for 112 years. Their 9 hospitals and more than 100 clinics across Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Espanola, Tucumcari, Socorro, Ruidoso, and Clovis provide care for more than 1/3 of the state’s population. This includes members of the Native American and Hispanic population, which sadly are among community members at highest risk for contracting COVID-19. You can learn more about Presbyterian and their COVID-19 Response by visiting their website.
Thank you, EMP Manufacturing, Inc., for helping gear up the healthcare workers of New Mexico!