Yale Researchers Disinfect N95 Respirators For Reuse

Mar 30, 2020

Researchers at Yale say they have found a way to extend the life of scarce N-95 respirators for health care workers. The study comes as some nurses in New York have reportedly begun to wear bandanas as a last resort. 

Normally, Yale would wait for weeks to share the results of a study while a medical journal offered it up for peer review. But Dr. Patrick Kenney says these times are anything but normal.

“I don’t mean to say that this is the most definitive study in the area, and there’s plenty of work still to be done, but we think that this is an important step forward.”

Kenney is a surgeon who helps makes sure Yale New Haven Health has everything needed to care for patients. His team tested a way to use vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate about 80% of the hospital’s gently used N95 respirators. That way, workers wouldn’t have to throw away precious frontline protection after one day’s use. 

“What we’re trying to do is replace bandanas, or scarves. And I think this is a really reasonable option to do that, with now some scientific evidence behind it to say that it’s safe, and knowing already that the vaporized hydrogen peroxide doesn’t harm the filtration.”

Kenney says researchers used a machine that hospitals already have to decontaminate rooms. They filled a hospital room with gently used N95 masks and let the machine do its thing. They knew from older studies that the vaporized hydrogen peroxide could kill bacteria on N95s. Now, Kenney’s found the process can kill viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, too. 

Kenney says the study is available online for hospitals to consider as they wait for shipments of personal protective equipment. 

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

Do you have questions you’d like WSHU to answer in local coverage of the coronavirus? Let us know via this survey.