The coronavirus pandemic has proven very destructive for the world community. People from every corner of the world suffered from the dire effects of the COVID-19. Millions of the people were affected and thousands of people lost their lives. Medical staff in the healthcare units, workers in the industries, the general public in their normal routines, and everyone faced the severe problems caused by the coronavirus.
Everyone tried to save the lives of their loved ones and themselves from the coronavirus. For this purpose, everyone looked for various personal protection equipment PPEs that can be used to stop the virus from causing the infections. These PPEs included surgical masks, medical masks, N95 respirators, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and various others. People also adopted social distancing measures for this purpose.
Governments across the world imposed lockdowns in order to make people stay at their homes. However, from all of the measures, the use of N95 masks and N95 respirators proved to be very effective. The virus usually spreads through the person to person contact. The secretions from the sneezes or coughs of the affected person can transmit the virus. So, for that purpose people started using the tightly fitting N95 masks.
N95 Shortage Problem
These N95 masks prevented the virus from entering the body. People trusted the N95 masks and started buying them. These N95 masks were already in use in the healthcare facilities; however, the use of N95 masks caused a sudden surge in the demands of the N95 masks. This led to a shortage of N95 masks across the world. The production rate was not able to match the demand line. So, the NIOSH and the Center for Disease Control and Command (CDC) opted for alternative ways.
From all of the alternative ways available to the CDC, the considered the decontamination methods to the best ones. Because using the decontamination methods the already present N95 masks could be reused and it can give time to the manufacturers to increase the supply chain. They asked the universities and the research institutes around the world to look for methods for the decontamination.
Role of UCLA Scientists in discovering the Decontamination Methods
The University of California, Los Angeles, played an important role in this regard. They collaborated with the NIOSH and the CDC for inventing different methods for the proper decontamination of the N95 masks. They tested these N95 masks with the various techniques and in the end proposed various methods that were the most effective in the decontamination of the N95 masks. UCLA scientists defined the use of the N95 masks as the protective shields that can block and filter the airborne and dust particles which can cause the infection.
Initially, these N95 masks could only be used for once; however, later on, when the UCLA scientists discovered these methods, the healthcare facilities started using these methods to make their N95s reusable. James Lloyd-Smith a co-author of the research and UCLA professor said in a press brief that although these N95 masks are designed for one-time use only; however, they can be reused up to three times after the decontamination process.
Experiments performed by UCLA Scientists
The UCLA scientists performed the experiments using the small pieces from the N95 masks that had already been exposed to the coronavirus. The pieces of the N95 masks were tested with various chemicals and techniques. A specialized chamber was used for the testing process. The pieces were treated with vaporized hydrogen peroxide, UV radiations and ethanol sprays, dry heat at 70 Celsius, low-pressure steam, and various other methods.
The methods proved to be very effective in detecting the smallest traces of the viruses and then removing them. Later on, they performed the experiments with the new pieces of the N95 masks and checked for various qualities. The major focus was the retention of the quality of N95 mask fabric, filtration ability, strap and nose clip durability, and some other features.
Results of the Research
At the end of the research, it was concluded by the research team that some methods are very good for the decontamination process of the N95 masks, while other methods may destroy the material of the N95 masks. The report concluded that the vaporized hydrogen peroxide treatment proved to be very effective in removing the contaminants from the N95 masks. The vaporized hydrogen peroxide removed all of the virus traces and made it available for the reuse.
The second method was ethanol testing. The results showed that the treatment with ethanol can destroy the fabric quality of the N95 masks. The masks may lose their quality material and it will eventually affect the filtration quality. Boiling and dry heat treatments also proved to be very effective for the decontamination process. Moreover, UV radiation was also observed to have the best results.
Important note by the UCLA Researchers
The researchers while conducting the research stressed the durability factor of the N95 mask. The respirator’s fit and the tight-fitting ability should not be affected during the decontamination process. So, the efforts of the UCLA scientists were very helpful in dealing with the COVID-19 through the discovery of methods to make the N95 masks reusable.
N95 masks were one of the best protective gears available in the market to prevent the COVID-19. Their shortage posed the threats of virus spread and more deaths. The role of UCLA in making these N95 masks reusable in unprecedented. The UCLA scientists helped a lot in the decontamination methods of the N95 masks.