N95 masks: 

The N95 mask is a respirator that filters out or blocks deleterious airborne particles like bacteria, infectious agents, pollutants, contaminants, mist, dirt, dust, mud, and a plethora of other particles that could have adverse effects on a person’s health.

The N95 mask prevents the user from inhaling hazardous airborne particles from entering into an individual’s body, lungs, or nose. Inhaling such deleterious particles could cause major health problems like lung cancer, heart disease, and cardiovascular diseases, etc. Therefore, it is advisable by health professionals to use the N95 mask when necessary. 

Most researched and effective methods to decontaminate an N95 mask

The majority of the countries would not take COVID-19 seriously when it began. They would think of it as normal flu and would not follow the precautionary measures advised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As a result, the reported cases of COVID-19 drastically increased.

Furthermore, the death toll of those places rose to thousands because they did not take the virus seriously and downplayed its severity and fatality. After realizing that it was a mistake to be non-serious about it, people started to buy an abundance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and N95 masks. 

This is because they realized the severity of the virus, and it was crucial to purchase the N95 masks now. After the demand for N95 masks grew exponentially due to COVID-19, the medical pharmacies, companies, and healthcare institutions had run out of N95 masks. 

And it was crucial to wear N95 masks during COVID-19. Therefore, the higher authorities made it clear to the public that there is a shortage of N95 masks, but it is also crucial to wear N95 masks. So, the best way to cope with this situation would be to decontaminate the N95 mask.

Decontaminating: 

Decontaminating an N95 mask means cleaning or sanitizing the N95 mask after using it for a long time. This is because the N95 mask might have a lot of bacteria on its surface while an individual is using it. This is why it is crucial to decontaminate.

There are several ways to decontaminate the N95 mask. Following are some effective methods to decontaminate an N95 mask after its prolonged use:

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation

A study was conducted in 2018 by some researchers where they contaminated 15 N95 mask models with the H1N1 influenza virus. After using ultraviolet light to process the N95 masks, there was a significant reduction in virus viability in 12 models out of the total 15 N95 models. 

A study was conducted in 2009 where a decontaminated N95 respirator was exposed to the UV light for 30 minutes, and the exposure of an N95 mask to the UV light was found to be an effective decontamination method.  

Another research in April 2020 concluded that the use of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation for decontamination was quite effective. However, using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation for decontamination is quite time consuming than other decontamination methods. 

Steam treatment

A study was conducted in 2012 where the researchers contaminated an N95 mask with the H5N1 influenza virus. The steam generated by microwave or oven was proved to be an effective decontamination method for decontaminating N95 masks.

Another study was conducted by Stanford medicine researchers where exposure of N95 masks to boiling water’s steam was found to be an effective decontamination method for treating Escherichia coli bacteria.

Dry Heat Treatment

Another study was conducted by Stanford Medicine researchers that also found that dry heat is quite effective at decontaminating N95 masks or respirators with Escherichia coli bacteria as well. The N95 masks were exposed for 30 minutes to dry oven heating at the temperature of 70°C.

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide

A study was conducted in 2009 where researchers exposed a contaminated N95 mask to vaporized hydrogen peroxide for 55 minutes; this was also proved to be an effective method for decontaminating N95 mask or respirator. 

Time decontamination

Several health facilities lack the resources for using such decontamination methods. For those health facilities, time decontamination is a useful alternative for decontaminating the N95 mask or removing the bacteria of the N95 mask. 

Healthcare workers use an N95 mask in time decontamination; then the N95 mask is stored in a paper bag for some time to be reused. If someone uses time decontamination for decontaminating an N95 mask, it has been advised by the CDC to not use the N95 mask for 5 days so that it is decontaminated.

Conclusion

The N95 mask is the safest Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) because it effectively protects an individual at an affordable price. One can determine the significance of the N95 mask by looking at the demand for this product during calamitous events like wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

People cannot purchase any N95 masks in the United States of America (USA) because of an acute shortage of N95 masks or respirators. To keep oneself protected from COVID-19, the decontamination of N95 masks is the only option to make it through the pandemic without getting infected by it.

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