Some face masks can be used even if their manufacturer’s expiration date has passed, the US Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.
The FDA posted extensive new guidance about face masks, surgical masks, and respirators on its website Tuesday, with advice about when to use each kind.
Some are OK to use even if they are old, the FDA said. “Face masks and surgical masks are designed to serve as protective barriers and may still offer some protection even if they are used beyond the manufacturer’s designated shelf life or expiration date,” the agency advised.
Hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities have reported shortages and problems managing protective personal equipment, including face masks. But certain types should not be re-used, the FDA said.
“The CDC does not recommend the reuse of disposable surgical masks that are intended to be used once. The FDA recognizes that there may be availability concerns with surgical masks during the COVID-19 public health emergency, but there are strategies to conserve surgical masks,” it said.
Respirators, such as N-95 masks, are to be used once and should not be washed, but some can be decontaminated and reused. “The FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for devices that decontaminate certain respirators,” it said.
Mask protection: While the FDA referred frequently to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its new website doesn’t reference the CDC’s latest guidance that suggests face masks protect the wearers as well as those around them.
“Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others,” the FDA said. “The CDC recommends people wear face masks in public settings, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Wearing a face mask may limit exposure to respiratory droplets and large particles and may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus.”