Decontamination process allows Houston area healthcare workers to reuse N95 masks amid PPE shortage

HOUSTON – Equipment set up in part of Houston’s NRG Arena is helping to service N95 masks for healthcare workers to reuse. Battelle Memorial Institute’s Critical Care Decontamination System has been operating in Hall A since May 1, the organization said.

Healthcare facilities ship the masks to the site. They go through a decontamination process and are then returned, said Erin Schultz, the Houston site lead.

“We can process them up to 20 times each,” she said.

Schultz said there are four chambers inside the hall and she explained how the process works.

“The hydrogen peroxide will condense on the mask and oxidize it and then that will kill the virus,” she said.

Ideally, workers would not reuse the masks. However, the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the supply of protective equipment, said John Clay, a research leader at Battelle.

“What we’re doing is rendering service for the U.S. Government and healthcare providers such that we can avoid shortages,” said Clay.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the equipment but some have concerns.