The Instant Pot is a single appliance said to do the job of seven kitchen devices and experts have just added one more use – sanitizing N95 masks.
Researchers found respirator masks can be decontaminate in just 50 minutes of dry heat produced by an electric cooker, allowing wearers to safely reuse the face cover.
One cooking cycle at 212 degrees Fahrenheit can disinfect the mask, inside and out, from four different classes of viruses, including the deadly coronavirus that is still plaguing much of the world.
The masks used in the experiment kept their fit and maintained filtration capacity of more than 95 percent, deeming it more effective than ultraviolet light.
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The Instant Pot is a single appliance said to do the job of seven kitchen devices and experts have just added one more use – sanitizing N95 masks. Researchers found respirator masks can be decontaminate in just 50 minutes of dry heat produced by an electric cooker, allowing wearers to safely reuse the face cover
The study was conducted by a team at the University of Illinois that set out to address the severe shortages of N95 masks.
This specific mask protects the wearer against airborne droplets and particles and has become the gold standard for healthcare and essential workers who are risking their lives to save others amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Civil and environmental engineering professor Thanh ‘Helen’ Nguyen said: ‘A cloth mask or surgical mask protects others from droplets the wearer might expel, but a respirator mask protects the wearer by filtering out smaller particles that might carry the virus.’
There are a number of ways to sterilize an N95 mask, but as Vishal Verma, who was involved in the study, noted many of the current methods will ‘destroy the filtration or the fit of an N95 respirator.’
The team notes to safely carry out the method, a towel needs to be placed on the bottom of the cooker and the mask on top to avoid burning the N95. However, multiple masks can be stacked to fit inside the cooker at the same time
‘Any sanitation method would need to decontaminate all surfaces of the respirator, but equally important is maintaining the filtration efficacy and the fit of the respirator to the face of the wearer,’ continued Verma.
‘Otherwise, it will not offer the right protection.’
The two researchers began this study with the idea that dry heat may solve the issue and meet all three criteria: decontamination, filtration and fit.
They also searched for a method that is widely accessible to the public, which turned them to an electric cooker.
They verified that one cooking cycle, which maintains the contents of the cooker at around 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes, decontaminated the masks, inside and out, from four different classes of virus, including a coronavirus.
And the team said it was more effective than ultraviolet light.
The next step was testing the filtration and fit.
‘We built a chamber in my aerosol-testing lab specifically to look at the filtration of the N95 respirators, and measured particles going through it,’ Verma said.
‘The respirators maintained their filtration capacity of more than 95 percent and kept their fit, still properly seated on the wearer’s face, even after 20 cycles of decontamination in the electric cooker.’
The team notes to safely carry out the method, a towel needs to be placed on the bottom of the cooker and the mask on top to avoid burning the N95.
However, multiple masks can be stacked to fit inside the cooker at the same time, Nguyen said.
DO FACE MASKS MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR IF YOU CAN’T GET ONE?
Americans are increasingly being spotted wearing face masks in public amid the coronavirus pandemic, as are people are around the globe.
Soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may advise all Americans to cover their faces when they leave the house, the Washington Post reported.
The agency is weighing that recommendation after initially telling Americans that they didn’t need to wear masks and that anything other than a high-grade N95 medical mask would do little to prevent infection any way.
FACE MASKS DO HELP PREVENT INFECTION – BUT THEY’RE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL
Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings varies but, recently, and in light of the pandemic of COVID-19, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing.
A University of Oxford study published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
It’s too early for their to be reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found the thinner, cheaper masks do work in flu outbreaks.
The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of particles that can – and more importantly, can’t – get though the materials.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and molded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous.
This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to breathe and work in, but less effective at stopping small particles from entering your mouth and nose.
Droplets of saliva and mucous from coughs and sneezes are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly tiny – in fact, they’re about 20-times smaller than bacteria.
For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still contended that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, because there is not proof the gear will protect them from infection – although they may keep people who are coughing and sneezing from infecting others.
But the Oxford analysis of past studies – which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and didn’t provide statistically less protection than N95 for health care workers around flu patients.
However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts universally agree that there’s simply no replacement for thorough, frequent hand-washing for preventing disease transmission.
Some think the masks may also help to ‘train’ people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will just make people do it more, actually raising infection risks.
If the CDC does instruct Americans to wear masks, it could create a second issue: Hospitals already face shortages of masks and other PPE.
WHAT TO USE TO COVER YOUR FACE IF YOU DON’T HAVE A MASK
So the agency may recommend regular citizens use alternatives like cloth masks or bandanas.
‘Homemade masks theoretically could offer some protection if the materials and fit were optimized, but this is uncertain,’ Dr Jeffrey Duchin, a Seattle health official told the Washington Post.
A 2013 study found that next to a surgical mask, a vacuum cleaner bag provided the best material for a homemade mask.
After a vacuum bag, kitchen towels were fairly protective, but uncomfortable. Masks made of T-shirts were very tolerable, but only worked a third as well as surgical mask. The Cambridge University researchers concluded that homemade masks should only be used ‘as a last resort.’
But as the pandemic has spread to more than 164,000 people worldwide, it might be time to consider last resort options.