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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 362  

Surgical face masks and n95 respirators: Is reuse after decontamination treatment justified?

1 Private Academic Consultant, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Dr. DY Patil University, Pune, Maharashtra, India; Department of Tropical Medicine, Hainan Medical University, Haikou, China; Department of Medical Science, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia; Department of Biological Science, Joseph Ayobabalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji, Osun State, Nigeria

Date of Submission04-Jun-2020
Date of Decision07-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance15-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication02-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Pathum Sookaromdee
Private Academic Consultant, Bangkok
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_305_20

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How to cite this article:
Sookaromdee P, Wiwanitkit V. Surgical face masks and n95 respirators: Is reuse after decontamination treatment justified?. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2021;14:362

How to cite this URL:
Sookaromdee P, Wiwanitkit V. Surgical face masks and n95 respirators: Is reuse after decontamination treatment justified?. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 20];14:362. Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2021/14/3/362/310589

Dear Sir,

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is an important present global public health problem. Due to the excessive large number of infections, medical and the household crisis of masks and respirators occurs. The “decontamination and reuse” of surgical face masks and N95 Respirators has been becoming a medical concern in the present COVID-19 pandemic crisis. There are some interesting new reports on this issue. Carlos Rubio-Romero et al. noted that “the most promising methods are those that use hydrogen peroxide vapor, ultraviolet radiation, moist heat, dry heat, and ozone gas.”[1] Xiang et al. made a comment that all those can be used at home and can resolve the current shortage of masks.”[2] The dry heat pasteurization can effectively manage several pathogens. Nevertheless, whether it can manage SARS-CoV-2 or not is still questionable. In addition, there is no study on material structural change of the mask and respirator. Heat might successfully destroy pathogens, but also possibly damages the fiber composition of mask and respirator. There is no study on the structural and mechanical alteration of masks following sterilization, and hence, this is hard to implement the reuse of sterilized mask to support the COVID-19 shortage of masks. Although there has been substantial ongoing research new providing evidence on the efficacy of sterilized masks, by a variety of means, for reuse within the hospital setting., most of the sterilization techniques are harder to adopt at household settings, and less researched on the use and efficacy of masks using the heat pasteurization technique, which if proven would be the convenient technique to use by the public within their houses Polkinghornea and Branleya noted that “The performance of the filter, especially the efficiency of particle penetration following treatment, varied greatly depending on the processing method as well as the model of the filter itself”[3] the reuse of the mask and respiratory after decontamination treatment are still to be validated. While different approaches are proven to be effective in the hospital setting, dry heat pasteurization is convenient for the general public in their household setting. However, little is known about the efficacy of masks for reuse purposes following the dry heat sterilization. We should not implement the decontamination and reuse before there is a bunch of enough scientific evidence of effectiveness. Unless otherwise extensively researched and proved, this is not yet strongly recommended to implement the technique and reuse masks or respirators within the household.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Carlos Rubio-Romero J, Del Carmen Pardo-Ferreira M, Antonio Torrecilla García J, Calero-Castro S. Disposable masks: Disinfection and sterilization for reuse, and non-certified manufacturing, in the face of shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Saf Sci 2020;129:104830.  Back to cited text no. 1
Xiang Y, Song Q, Gu W. Decontamination of surgical face masks and N95 respirators by dry heat pasteurization for one hour at 70°C. Am J Infect Control 2020;48:880-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
Polkinghorne A, Branley J. Evidence for decontamination of single-use filtering facepiece respirators. J Hosp Infect 2020;105:663-9.  Back to cited text no. 3

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