April 28, 2020

Surgeons help create process for disinfecting, reusing N95 masks

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this study from BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, a multidisciplinary team that included surgeons created a new process for disinfecting and reusing N95 masks, using vaporized hydrogen peroxide.

The process allows healthcare workers (HCW) to reuse masks up to 20 cycles, and it has an identification system that enables the hospital to return the sanitized mask to the same HCW each time.


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The disinfection process begins at the end of a shift:

  • HCWs remove their N95 masks in the unit’s soiled utility room and place them in sterilization pouches made of breathable polyethylene fiber on one side.
  • On the other side of the sealed pouches, the HCWs write their names or employee ID numbers, hospital, department, and unit location, and they place the pouches in a soiled collection bin.
  • A designated worker wearing proper protection collects the bins twice daily and takes them to a specially designed and sealed disinfection room that was built in 4 days using a vacant conference room.
  • In the room, the pouches are arranged, breathable side up, by clinical unit on wire racks.
  • A hydrogen peroxide vapor generator, which Washington University already owned to decontaminate equipment, fills the room with the chemical.
  • After 4.5 hours, a worker moves the rack of masks to another area that has a fan to offgas the hydrogen peroxide, and where the masks stay until sensors record a zero reading.
  • The pouches are returned to their units in a decontaminated bin, finishing the process that takes about 7 hours.

Currently they are disinfecting 240 N95 masks per day, and they have the capability of disinfecting 1,500 masks per day. They also have built another disinfection room.

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