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Decontamination Method Adopted to Ease N95 Mask Shortage

Decontamination of N95 respirators with hydrogen peroxide vapors being adopted by Duke University

TUESDAY, March 31, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Duke Health research and clinical teams have developed a validated process for decontaminating N95 masks. The process is described in an article published online in Applied Biosafety: Journal of ABSA International.

Researchers from Duke University are implementing a decontamination method that they have used in their biocontainment laboratory, which uses specialized equipment to aerosolize hydrogen peroxide, to decontaminate N95 face masks. The method was tested and published in 2016 but was not widely adopted.

In the published article, Antony Schwartz, from Duke University & Health System in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues present details of these decontamination and reuse methods. A specifically designed room that can use hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate laboratory equipment has been operational for more than a decade. The room utilizes a Bioquell Clarus C system with a 35 percent hydrogen peroxide solution and distribution system. The researchers validated the decontamination of N95 respirators with hydrogen peroxide vapor for more than 50 cycles; the reuse limiting factor was degradation that started in the elastic straps. To ensure qualitative and quantitative degradation has not occurred, N95 respirators will be decontaminated and reused up to 30 cycles, with a quality assurance step. With every cycle, a cohort of respirators will be decontaminated and used in standardized quantitative fit testing to ensure integrity of respirators.

"It has been a proven method for years," Monte Brown, M.D., vice president at Duke University Health System, said in a statement. "While this alone will not solve the problem, if we and others can reuse masks even once or twice, that would be a huge benefit given the current shortages."

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