Researchers at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School have identified a more rapid method for decontaminating N95 masks using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, making their reuse more economically feasible and practical for healthcare workers.
The researchers also found that after eight rounds of decontamination, some models of N95 masks, including the Halyard Fluidshield 46727 model, provided inadequate protection for those who reused the masks.
Mask decontamination and reuse at a large scale have become increasingly important in the healthcare industry due to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers said.
“Current methods used to decontaminate N95 masks require bigger spaces, longer times, and a lot of personnel to hang as few as 250 masks in 30 minutes individually,” said Riccardo Russo, director of BSL3 operations at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“The new method we found nearly tripled the number of masks disinfected using the same space and time, showing the efficiency and rapidness of our new proposed approach,” said Russo.
Unlike current methods that hang individual masks to be disinfected, the new way of stacking masks on racks in piles didn’t interfere with decontamination, took up less space, and reduced the hands-on time needed now by almost 67%.
Used masks could be fully decontaminated even if they contained large amounts of makeup, moisturizer, or both. Masks also could be decontaminated in individually labeled paper bags, enabling easy identification of personal masks after disinfection.
According to the researchers, it will be important for healthcare facilities that decontaminate masks to preserve PPE so individual masks can be returned to their previous owners.
“Per our findings, it’s important to emphasize that every mask’s make and model need to be carefully evaluated before it is deemed safe for vaporized hydrogen peroxide decontamination and reuse,” said coauthor Carly Levine, a graduate student at the school.
The first study, “Decontaminating N95 Respirators During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Simple and Practical Approaches to Increase Decontamination Capacity, Speed, Safety, and Ease of Use,” was published by medRxiv.
The second study, “Use, Reuse or Discard: Quantitatively Defined Variance in N95 Respirator Integrity Following Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide Decontamination During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” also was published by medRxiv.