Can N-95 masks be used again and again

indica News Service

N-95 masks are generally used by doctors, nurses and other medical workers. N-95 masks are understood to be efficient in filtering out infectious droplets which can carry the coronavirus. N-95 masks generally are not supposed to be reused.

As the shortages of personal protective equipment increases in the US, hospitals may have to consider using the N-95 masks again and again. But is this safe?

Mark Ghilarducci, who is the director of the  California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is working with a Ohio-based company to deploy sterilization systems which can help make these masks used many times. He says:

“It’s a technology that is designed to get on the ground and actually bring in a used N-95 mask and do a sterilization and cleaning process that makes them basically new again.” 

But many dispute that the N-95 masks can be reused. Amy Herr, who is a professor of bio-engineering at the University of California, Berkeley says that there can be many issues with re-use of the N-95 masks such as potential cross-contamination when sterilized masks are sent back to the hospitals. Another problem which may be there is that when the masks are re-used after sterilization, it may not completely fit the face of the user and infectious droplets may enter.  Herr says:

“I wouldn’t call them clean masks, I would call them maybe cleaner masks,” Herr said. “They’re not as good as new.”

The sterilization of the masks are done by exposing masks to hydrogen peroxide vapor for more than two and a half hours .

Anyways, masks cannot be cleaned up for indefinite periods. Any new mask wears out after 20 uses. So reusing masks pose several questions like issues in decontamination, masks not fitting after decontamination process. Apart from these there are cost factors as well.

In conclusion it looks better if N-95 masks are used only once.