Arizona hospitals will soon be able to decontaminate N95 masks




N95 mask decontaminator
Masks ready to be sterilized. Photo courtesy Batelle.

A system that sterilizes used N95 masks using vaporized hydrogen peroxide will be available to health care facilities in Arizona in May, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System can decontaminate up to 80,000 masks a day and has been shown to remove pathogens from N95 masks, including COVID-19. 

The process allows for the masks to be used up to 20 times without degrading the filter, Battelle says. 

There will be no charge for health care providers to use the system, and the aim is to address the shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that has been an issue since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

PPE has been in short supply in Arizona.

Earlier this month Gov. Doug Ducey authorized the Arizona National Guard to fly to North Carolina to get fabric to create surgical gowns, which were in such dire supply that some have been sewing bed sheets to make their own.  

One of the most acute shortages was for the N95 masks, in part due to the complex way their filters are manufactured. Some Arizona hospitals have been asking for donations of masks and other PPE on social media

ADHS is asking that facilities now stop disposing of N95 masks that are free from damage, according to an email the agency sent to providers. Each facility will have to register then send their masks in for decontamination. After the procedure is complete, the masks will be sent back. 

Battelle has already received a $415 million contract from the Pentagon to deliver its systems to cities across the United States. Sites have already popped up in Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois. 

The system is also currently being looked at to decontaminate other equipment, such as surgical masks and ventilator equipment, according to Battelle. 

The company did not answer questions about whether the state or federal government was paying for the system to be deployed in Arizona. 

As of April 29, there are 7,202 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and there have been 304 deaths.