EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Ohio-based non-profit company Battelle, came to El Paso in May to use their disinfecting system for cleaning N95 masks and make them reusable for medical providers.
With mask orders in place, many are getting N95 medical respirators for everyday use, but they are needed most by health care workers.
Center for Disease Control stated N95s should be used only by medical personnel, as they are ones most exposed to the virus. Still, the public recognized the effectiveness of these masks despite being encouraged to use cloth face covers.
These masks are not washable like cloth ones and need special treatment to be reusable and stay effective.
Derek Schiavone, director of the Battelle site in El Paso, says the company still encourages providers to purchase new masks and explains their program is here to help fight the shortage of masks and let suppliers catch up on production.
Providers from El Paso, New Mexico, and nearby, take their contaminated masks directly to the operation site or mail them in.
The masks are packed in two bags and then put in a box marked as ‘biohazard’.
This 24-hour operating site receives the boxes and ensures a safe loading onto the chamber in which the masks will be treated with gas.
All employees must wear a protective suit with a ventilator to make sure none of the contaminants get in direct contact with them.
The staff picks out masks that have make-up, lotion, or any other residue and throws them away. Those masks cannot be cleaned because the residue does not allow the gas to condensate properly and disinfect the filtering system.
Once the masks are unloaded into the chamber, they get exposed to vapor phase hydrogen peroxide for four hours.
After the gassing process, the masks are left to air out for up to ten hours to ensure large amounts of hydrogen peroxide don’t stay on the masks.
Even with this one, and many other disinfecting techniques, N95 masks are required for medical workers at all times. The general public can use simple cloth face coverings instead.
In order for masks to keep us safe, we all must follow along in wearing them.