Home Coronavirus Dry Heat Can Effectively Sanitize N95 Masks

Dry Heat Can Effectively Sanitize N95 Masks

Frame grab

A new study has found that electric cookers in the home can effectively sanitize N95 respirators, which are key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

These findings, which appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, could help relieve the pressure on the limited supply of N95 respirators, which are usually single-use items.

[The scientists have produced a video giving instructions on how to go about decontamination]

The importance of PPE

A key part of the world’s effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is the use of PPE.

COVID-19 typically spreads when a person expels droplets carrying the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from their mouth or nose.

If the droplets come into contact with another person, there is a chance that they will gain access to their respiratory tract, where the virus will infect cells to cause disease.

PPE can take the form of gowns, visors, gloves, and masks. It forms a barrier between people and is crucial for care workers and clinical staff who may be in close contact with people with SARS-CoV-2.

The sudden emergence and rapid spread of the new coronavirus have created a huge demand for PPE. This demand has, in many cases, outstripped supply. This means that many carers and clinical staff who need the equipment are having to make do with substandard products or without any PPE at all.

This not only puts carers’ lives at risk but also significantly increases the chances of the virus spreading, thereby also endangering other people’s lives.

Masks are an important part of PPE; they both protect the wearer from infection and stop the wearer from spreading the virus to others. The gold standard in masks is N95 respirators, which not only block droplets but can also block 95% of fine particles — hence the name N95.

N95 masks are one of the mask types that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for use in COVID-19 intensive care units, indicating their efficacy.

As study co-author Prof. Thanh Nguyen, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, points out, “A cloth mask or surgical mask protects others from droplets the wearer might expel, but a respirator mask protects the wearer by filtering out smaller particles that might carry the virus.”

However, these respirators are in short supply. Authorities in the United States do not recommend that the public wear N95 respirators. This is to prevent putting even more strain on the supply of the masks.

In light of this short supply, recent research has explored the viability of decontaminating N95 respirators, which manufacturers typically design for single use.