Can decontaminating n95 respirators be the answer to face mask shortages?

How safe are we with our n95 respirators? While they are playing a huge role in our struggle against the unexpected pandemic, n95 respirators have lifespan limitations. They are supposed to be disposable face masks so after some time it is advisable to dispose of them. Scientists from different countries around the world are working day and night to find a solution that can be used on a global scale.

While it might have been easy to buy new face masks in the past, right now many complications are surrounding this old privilege. For instance disposing of the face mask itself is increasing an already existing problem of the oceans filling up with plastic. Furthermore, there is high demand and low supply for n95 face masks which makes them expensive and out of reach for most people.

However there is a slight plot twist to our dilemma. It has been suggested and proven that we can disinfect our disposable n95 face masks and reuse them. Hydrogen peroxide, UV light and heat are so far the suitable elements for this task. This is because the conventional ways of cleaning compromise the face mask's ability to trap small particles and fit properly on the face.

The first benefit of the decontamination options available is that heat is almost free. There many sources of it available and UV lights are very cheap in a lot of areas worldwide. There is also little room for error in the process of exposing the n95 respirator to the decontaminating element. It is a one step process which can be done by almost everyone easily with no need to directly touch the used mask.

The time constraints are also reasonable in most situations. It takes an approximate 4 hours to decontaminate a face mask. This gives most people the time to decontaminate their mask even on a tight schedule. This would include for example health workers who are standing on the front lines and need the simplest and fastest to quickly step out and step back in with no compromises.

Professionals are saying you can decontaminate your masks up to 30 times before it is too risky to keep doing it. A month would be a reasonable lifespan considering that you would only need 12 masks if you are disinfecting them along the way. It would also make it easier for more people to buy masks for themselves.

All companies around the world like 3M are multiplying their production quantities so it might not be long until there is a global solution to this shortage. So for now disinfecting n95 respirators is a good solution to part of the fight against COVID 19. This is an option that everyone should consider since lives are depending on us sharing the little resources we have.

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