Staff perceptions of military chemical–biological–radiological–nuclear (CBRN) air-purifying masks during a simulated clinical task in the context of SARS-CoV-2

Steven Adamson, Hannah Carpenter, George Pang, Jason M. Pincus, Bryan E. Gregory, Michael C. Reade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Air-purifying full-face masks, such as military chemical–biological–radiological–nuclear masks, might offer superior protection against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 compared to disposable polypropylene P2 or N95 masks. In addition, disposable masks are in short supply, while military chemical–biological–radiological–nuclear masks can be disinfected then reused. It is unknown whether such masks might be appropriate for civilians with minimal training in their use. Accordingly, we compared the Australian Defence Force in-service chemical–biological–radiological–nuclear Low Burden Mask (AirBoss Defense, Newmarket, Canada) with polypropylene N95 masks and non-occlusive glasses worn during simulated tasks performed by civilian clinicians in an Australian tertiary referral hospital intensive care unit. After brief training in the use of the Low Burden Mask, participants undertook a simulated cardiac arrest scenario. Previous training with polypropylene N95 masks had been provided. Evaluation of 10 characteristics of each mask type were recorded, and time to mask application was assessed. Thirty-three participants tested the Low Burden Mask, and 28 evaluated polypropylene N95 masks and glasses. The Low Burden Mask was donned more quickly: mean time 7.0 (standard deviation 2.1) versus 18.3 (standard deviation 6.7) seconds; P = 0.0076. The Low Burden Mask was rated significantly higher in eight of the 10 assessed criteria, including ease of donning, comfort (initially and over a prolonged period), fogging, seal, safety while removing, confidence in protection, and overall. Visibility and communication ability were rated equally highly for both systems. We conclude that this air-purifying full-face mask is acceptable to clinicians in a civilian intensive care unit. It enhances staff confidence, reduces waste, and is likely to be a lower logistical burden during a prolonged pandemic. Formal testing of effectiveness is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-197
Number of pages8
JournalAnaesthesia and Intensive Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • masks
  • Pandemics
  • personal protective equipment
  • respiratory protective devices

Cite this