Beaumont bioengineers create 2-step process to disinfect used N95 masks

State trooper gives precious N95 masks to doctor he pulled over for speeding
Posted at 1:05 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 13:58:40-04

(WXYZ) — Bioengineers with Beaumount Health have created a process that extends the life of N95 masks, which is critical during the coronavirus crisis as health professionals have had to deal with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The two-step process will allow for N95 masks to be used two to three more times, according to Beaumont Health.

“This is a major development which will help us continue to protect our staff during this pandemic. Our engineers stepped up, adapting technology to create this process,” said Beaumont Health Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson. “With the severe national shortage of masks, this will allow us to protect our staff, conserve resources and reduce medical waste.”

The process to disinfect the used masks includes an ultraviolet light machine and eight walls surrounding it. Beaumont says the used masks are affixed to cables on the front side of the walls, and on the back side of each wall is reflective foil.

“We’ve adopted a 2-step process based on work from the University of Nebraska and in collaboration with University of Michigan,” said Dr. Sam Flanders, Chief Quality Officer, Beaumont Health. “A powerful ultraviolet light exposes all surfaces of the mask for 8 minutes. UV light has been proven to kill the COVID germ, along with other microorganisms. Next, the masks are heated to 150-160 degrees for one hour.”

The disinfecting process takes under two hours.

After the masks are exposed to UV light, they are placed in dry heat warming units. This second step helps disinfect the masks, Beaumont Health says.

“This isn’t the first time that health systems have done this in pandemic situations, added Dr. Flanders. “Reprocessing of N95 masks has been scientifically studied and is safe and effective.”

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