Scientists may have found the solution to the problem of shortage of N95 masks amid the Coronavirus pandemic by making them re-usable. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says that the thermal disinfection process can decontaminate N95 masks. The researchers found that moist heat treatment of masks for 60 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius in a humid condition do not damage their structure or affect the function.
“A single heat treatment rendered SARS-CoV-2 undetectable in all mask samples,” said the research report available on CMAJ’s official website. The research report noted, “Thermal disinfection successfully decontaminated N95 respirators without impairing structural integrity or function.”
The report further said, “A single thermal disinfection cycle of 60 minutes at 70°C and 0% relative humidity effectively inactivated SARS-CoV-2 in 4 types of N95 respirators.” Interpreting the findings of the research, scientists said that the moist heat treatment of N95 masks could be used in hospitals and long-term care facilities. This process could be carried out through commonly available equipment to solve the problem of shortage of N95 masks across nations.
The disposable N95 respirator protects its users against COVID-19 infection.
The research report said that thermal disinfection can provide a “widely available and cost-effective decontamination strategy for disposable respirators”.
The team of scientists who participated in this research included those from the University of Toronto in Canada.
News agency PTI quoted the study co-author Gregory Borschel from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto as saying, “This low-cost reprocessing strategy can be applied 10 times without affecting the mask’s filtration, breathing resistance, fit and comfort, and thus may help to alleviate the global shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the study, the researchers tested four common models of N95 masks at various temperatures and humidity levels to find out whether the virus could be detected on the treated masks.