Objectives: Due to the surge in demand for N95 masks during the Covid-19 pandemic, and considering the situation in countries grappling with acute shortages of N95 masks, this study investigated the possibilities of decontamination and reuse of masks. Methods: Three N95 masks of different makes (A, B and C) were subjected to six decontamination methods: ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) dip, plasma sterilization (Sterrad®), ethylene oxide (ETO, 3M®), dry heat sterilization, and moist heat sterilization (autoclaving). The integrity of the N95 masks was assessed by measuring their particle filtering efficiency at particle sizes ranging 0.3–0.5 microns. Results: All the masks decontaminated with ETO and plasma sterilization retained over 95% particle filtering efficiency. Masks decontaminated using IPA dip and autoclaving showed a drop, and UV irradiation showed variations in particle size efficiency degradation after decontamination. Conclusions: Plasma sterilization is recommended for decontamination of N95 masks in low-resource settings. ETO is not recommended due to hazards associated with handling of ethylene oxide, although the filtering efficiency was retained. Since the UV irradiation method showed variations in results, evaluation of UV decontamination for N95 masks needs to be performed on a case-by-case basis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases