Apr 11, 2020 - Health

New coronavirus surge: Disinfecting health care worker face masks

Technicians in protective clothing do a dry run at Battelle's Critical Care Decontamination System in New York. Photo: John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Battelle, an Ohio nonprofit research and development firm, has employees working to disinfect thousands of face masks used by health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: There is a shortage of personal protective equipment, even as companies from fashion and tech industries are stepping up to manufacture masks.

The state of play: Battelle typically works on a range of products such as robotics and oil drilling.

  • Battelle is training new employees so they can set up decontamination sites in Long Island, Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C. and other cities.

How it works: Battelle receives N95 masks from more than 100 hospitals, clinics, fire departments and nursing homes that are treated with hydrogen peroxide vapor, per the Times.

  • Masks are inspected before they are processed. Roughly 90% can be disinfected.
  • 50,000 masks are taken into the decontamination chamber per cycle, and workers make sure the masks don't overlap.
  • Workers are sprayed with a 70% alcohol solution after they exit the chamber.
  • A hydrogen peroxide generator releases a vapor to neutralize the coronavirus and other contaminants.
  • The masks are inspected after four hours for harmful levels of residual hydrogen peroxide before they are packaged and sent back.

Go deeper: The race to make more masks and ventilators

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