Protective Equipment for Healthcare Facility Decontamination Personnel: Regulations, Risks and Recommendations

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After recent terrorist attacks, new attention has been focused on health care facility decontamination practices. This article reviews core issues related to the selection of appropriate personal protective equipment for health care facility decontamination personnel, with an emphasis on respiratory protection. Existing federal regulations focus primarily on scene response and not on issues specific to health care facility decontamination practices. Review of existing databases, relevant published literature, and individual case reports reveal some provider health risks, especially when the exposure involves organophosphate agents. However, reported risks from secondary exposure to contaminated patients at health care facilities are low. These risks should be adequately addressed with Level C personal protective equipment, including air-purifying respirator technologies, unless the facility determines that specific local threats require increased levels of protection.