Posts Tagged ‘N95 masks’


Photo: Brian Kaiser
N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are collected daily from hospitals, fire departments, etc., for eight hours of decontamination with hydrogen peroxide vapor at Battelle. The PPE is then put in individual bags marked with how many times they have been disinfected.

It’s scary to read that doctors are having to reuse N95 masks, but it turns out that if the masks have been steamed in hydrogen peroxide vapor for eight hours, they can be reused safely up to 20 times. How can we get this service for everyone?

Tiffany Hsu has the story at the New York Times, “Inside the rural Ohio labs run by Battelle, a nonprofit research and development firm, … employees have spent the recent weeks decontaminating over 30,000 used face masks for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Each day, N95 masks collected from more than 100 hospitals, clinics, fire departments and nursing homes are treated for hours with a hydrogen peroxide vapor. Once cleaned, the masks are sent back to the same facilities to be reused.

“A severe shortage of personal protective equipment has left hospitals desperate as the outbreak continues to spread. …

“For Battelle, which usually develops products across a range of disciplines, from robotics to oil drilling, the decontamination project is an attempt to extend the lives of masks that already exist.

“Late last month, Battelle was granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration to expand its decontamination efforts. … Its process, what they call the Critical Care Decontamination System, will eventually be able to clean 80,000 masks a day per site, and [each] mask can be cleaned up to 20 times before losing effectiveness.

“Hundreds of employees are involved, and thousands more are being hired, with many going through training to set up decontamination sites on Long Island and in Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. For now, the bulk of the operations are happening roughly 20 miles west of downtown Columbus.

“Like many efforts underway, Battelle’s project was barely an idea three weeks ago. The company had used vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize sensitive equipment for years. But to develop a large-scale decontamination process, the logistics were hurriedly sketched out on a conference room table by a handful of experts and executives.

“Battelle’s West Jefferson [Ohio] site has since received scores of face coverings, double-bagged and stored in boxes marked with biohazard symbols. Health care networks like OhioHealth and Mercy Health are delivering their used masks by trained couriers. Recently, the chief of a local fire department dropped off masks in person. …

“Preparing newly arrived masks for decontamination requires small teams of workers in the tents, each wearing black rubber boots, two layers of gloves, surgical scrubs, a lab coat and a portable, powered air purifying respirator attached to a belt that blows filtered air into a closed hood over the worker’s head.

“Each mask is inspected before it is processed; roughly 10 percent are soiled or broken and cannot be decontaminated, according to [Kevin Sayers, who is helping to oversee the West Jefferson operation]. ‘We’re seeing a lot of masks right now that have makeup on them,’ he said.

“When ready to be decontaminated, the masks are brought inside a 1,000-cubic-foot chamber. Inside the decontamination chamber, the teams position the masks, in batches of 5,000 per cycle, on wire shelves affixed to the chamber’s metal walls, taking care to avoid overlapping.

The workers then exit the chamber, spraying themselves with a 70-percent alcohol solution. The precaution requires a gallon of alcohol each day.

Read about the rest of the process at the New York Times, here.

Oct. 8, 2020. Uh-oh. This post needs an update as the FDA has now condemned the business for not considering problems like allergies. Read this.

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