Amid Shortages, the FDA Approves Fast Decontamination System to Re-Use N95 Masks

Healthcare workers have been reusing the same face masks, or creating makeshift bandanas as there are not enough N95 masks to go around.
Fabienne Lang

The coronavirus numbers keep increasing worldwide, keeping medical workers on the front line treating more and more patients. However, there's a lack of proper medical equipment available to these healthcare workers, specifically N95 face masks. 

This piece of gear is extremely necessary for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients as it filters out 95% of particles. Unfortunately, workers have had to re-use face masks and even sometimes create makeshift ones out of bandanas in order to keep working, placing their lives at risk.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for a system that decontaminates used N95 masks and allows them to be re-used safely up to 20 times.


Who created the system?

N95 respirator masks are created for single-use, however, when Batelle, a research, development and lab management company, proposed a way that is safe for the masks to be re-used once decontaminated, the FDA complied

The system uses concentrated, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate each mask in a process that takes two and a half hours

The Batelle system is already in operation in its Ohio facility, which can decontaminate up to 80,000 masks a day. Currently, the FDA has only approved a maximum of 10,000 masks to be decontaminated per day as a test run. If everything ends up working well, decontaminating up to 80,000 masks a day could end up saving many lives. 

So as to keep the system rolling safely and transparently, Batelle has stressed that the N95 masks they decontaminate will only go back to the healthcare facility where they came from, and will be labeled with a serial number to keep track of how many times each mask has been re-used. 

Batelle issued a statement about their work on March 28, 2020, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed the company and its decontamination efforts as well.

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