The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting us for over nine months now, and the United States is preparing for a second wave of cases during the fall. This respiratory virus is spread through droplets of fluids released by infected people when they cough, or sneeze. The virus can be extremely harmful for certain vulnerable groups of people, like the elderly and immunocompromised patients.
The use of face masks has been, therefore, our main resource for virus protection, catching the respiratory fluids from being released into the environment. Until a vaccine is developed, the use of face masks is all we have available. But, certain face masks are more efficient than others and N95 masks are considered to be the best ones for virus protection.
For this reason, they’re crucial for healthcare workers to be able to take care of patients safely, but they’re disposable face masks and are very hard to find. One way to ease the shortage of these masks is to make them reusable, and that’s been the focus of many research projects across the USA.
In this article, we’ll discuss the latest process for decontamination of N95 masks to be approved by the FDA, which comes from Ohio County. This can make N95 masks reusable prolonging their lifespan, and helping with the shortages that affect healthcare centers across the country.
Among the many engineer designs and startups looking to make N95 masks reusable, whether it’s by creating a completely new reusable N95 mask or creating a method to effectively sterilize them, a business in Ohio Country joins with their experiment to fight against the pandemic.
Roxby Development, a family-owned company based in Wheeling, West Virginia, has been supporting sustainable ventures to create a long-term viable society. Now, they’re part of the handful of companies that have been authorized with a decontamination process used in N95 masks to make them safe for reuse.
They’ve specialized in several projects around their community, and they became inspired to look for ways to help this situation when a construction project was put on hold as a result of the pandemic. The president of Roxby Development said: “We realized, because my mother and grandmother are both nurses, that there is a huge PPE shortage, with N95 in particular. We researched a way to reuse and purchased the equipment, started the system, got FDA approval, and here we are.”
They started to research this topic and found out a study published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about a way to decontaminate N95 masks. They’ve been granted an Emergency Use Authorization for their decontamination system, known as the Zoe-Ann Decontamination System. This could enable the reuse of N95 respirators which are designed to be disposable face masks.
N95 masks are a type of respirator according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known by their acronym NIOSH. They’re an institution that is a federal agency created as a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make recommendations and spread information that can prevent work-related injuries or illnesses.
NIOSH regulates respirators as part of their job to achieve a safe work environment across the country. Respirators are often used in work settings in which respiratory hazards, like dust, smoke, and microorganisms, are present. They prevent the particles from entering the wearer’s airways, avoiding the development of certain health conditions associated with chronic or acute exposure to these particles.
According to the NIOSH classification, N95 masks are respirators that aren’t resistant to oil, as indicated by the letter N, and can filter out at least 95% of the airborne particles in the air, as indicated by the number 95. This makes them excellent for protection against non-oil based airborne particles, including dust and smoke, and viruses like the flu or the new coronavirus.
For this reason, they’re considered to be the disposable face mask with the highest antiviral properties, and the best face mask for virus protection, with better performance than surgical face masks. They need to be prioritized for healthcare workers on the frontlines who are exposed to the virus all the time, while the general public has been urged to use alternatives in public.
They’re disposable because the materials they’re made of aren’t very durable, and can degrade very easily. They’re intended to be used for 8 to 12 hours and then discarded. They should also be removed if they become damaged or wet, and they can’t be shared with other people.
KN95 masks are often confused with N95 masks because of their name, but this similarity goes beyond the name. KN95 masks are regulated under the Chinese filtration standard, which is slightly different from the American one. For this reason, KN95 masks have generally been considered safe to be used as a substitute for N95 masks when they’re not available in a healthcare setting. And many of them have EUAs from the FDA.
Before the pandemic, N95 masks could be found easily online for sale, available for the general public to buy them in bulk and wholesale. But, those days are long gone, and the scarcity of this item has been devastating for the healthcare field. They’ve been struggling to get their hands on this valuable item that is crucial for their protection during the pandemic.
To help out our healthcare providers, the best way to do it is to keep ourselves protected at all times with a face-covering, leaving the medical-grade masks to them. For kids over the age of 2, masks in a smaller size are needed to ensure their protection.