Science

Covid-19: Can surgical masks be reused?

Summary

PARIS: Well being authorities say probably the most widespread anti-Covid weapon — surgical masks — should be thrown away after a single use, however environmental issues are pushing some scientists to query this advice. Because the coronavirus continues to unfold, […]

PARIS: Well being authorities say probably the most widespread anti-Covid weapon — surgical masks — should be thrown away after a single use, however environmental issues are pushing some scientists to query this advice.
Because the coronavirus continues to unfold, masks have in lots of locations turn into obligatory on public transport, in outlets and at work.
However value has turn into a difficulty, as has the very fact so many disposable plastic masks wind up in waterways and the oceans.
One different is reusable material masks, however many individuals favor single-use surgical masks as a result of they’re lighter and individually cheaper.
“Medical masks are for single use solely,” the World Well being Group has mentioned. “Discard the masks instantly, ideally right into a closed bin.”
However confronted with shortages through the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March and April, the WHO allowed in a June report for “distinctive procedures” to disinfect throw-away masks for reuse.
The US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends — in emergency circumstances — hydrogen peroxide vapour to decontaminate the N95 masks worn by healthcare employees.
Different strategies to purify single-use masks embrace exposing them to excessive temperatures or ultraviolet radiation.
However these strategies are inconvenient for folks at residence, mentioned French microbiologist and member of Adios Corona, Denis Corpet.
Adios Corona — a bunch of scientists who present info on Covid-19 to the general public — recommends “inserting the masks in a paper envelope with the date clearly marked, and leaving it for seven days”.
“A number of scientific research present that viruses are virtually all useless on a masks after seven days,” mentioned Corpet.
A examine revealed in The Lancet discovered that solely 0.1 % of the virus on the surface floor of the masks was nonetheless detectable after one week.
This technique, nonetheless, will not be applicable for healthcare employees uncovered to excessive viral hundreds.
Peter Tsai, the inventor of N95 electrostatically charged filter materials, agrees with the seven-day technique.
However he suggests leaving used masks out within the open for every week earlier than reuse, a cycle he says could be repeated 5 to 10 instances.
Disposable masks may also be positioned within the oven, Tsai advised AFP, ideally at a temperature between 70 and 75 levels Celsius (158 and 167 levels Fahrenheit) — not too excessive to keep away from burning the plastic, however sufficiently scorching to kill the virus.
Washing masks in a washer, nonetheless, will not be a good suggestion.
“Washing with out detergent could not wash away the virus,” Tsai mentioned. “And washing with detergent will erase the (electrostatic) prices,” diminishing its effectivity.
French shoppers’ rights group UFC-Que Choisir washed surgical masks at 60C, put them within the dryer, and ironed them. After 10 such cycles, the masks nonetheless filtered a minimum of 90 % of 3-micron particles.
“Other than a slight felting, the washed surgical masks have been a minimum of as environment friendly as the most effective material masks,” UFC-Que Choisir reported final week.
Researcher Philippe Vroman from French engineering college Ensait got here to the identical conclusion.
After 5 washes, “there are virtually no variations (of filtration) for particles of three microns,” Vroman mentioned, on the idea of preliminary outcomes not but revealed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“And I might slightly we swap masks each 4 hours and wash them, slightly than sporting them a number of days in a row as some folks do. It’s kind of like underwear,” he mentioned.
However not all scientists agree.
“Washing the masks at residence may doubtlessly trigger a secondary contamination and unfold the virus if washing will not be set appropriately,” mentioned Kaiming Ye, head of the biomedical engineering division at New York’s Binghamton College.
Till extra analysis is revealed on the matter, official recommendation from well being authorities will not be set to alter.
“Single-use surgical masks should be thrown into the bin after use,” mentioned France’s well being authority DGS, however famous that extra research have been underway.
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