Michigan State decontaminates N-95 masks in commercial oven

Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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Michigan State University has partnered with health officials at Sparrow Hospital to find a new way to decontaminate face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Since the virus started spreading in the United States, medical staff has been in short supply of N-95 masks.

This has left them to reuse masks more than once.

MSU and Sparrow are now using commercial ovens to decontaminate surgical masks.

Alan Vierling the President of Sparrow Hospital said, "What we know about the virus is it doesn't do well in heat, so most viruses typically die at 84 degrees."

"The industrial oven allows you to put a mask on the back of the spiral oven and it rotates it all the way up to the top. So, we cook it at 158 degrees Fahrenheit for exactly 30 minutes."

Sparrow has given Michigan State test masks for the experiment, which has been very successful according to MSU.

Jeff Dwyer, the Director of MSU Extension said a mask can go through the decontamination process about 10 to 15 times.

Having this option for the medical staff will decrease the demand for new surgical masks as well as keeping the masks clean.

Dwyer said the masks will be collected on a floor-by- floor basis.

The masks will be put into a commercial oven set to about 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

High temperatures will kill the virus.

However, they are still in the experimental process right now.

According to Vierling, the masks will be in the oven for about 30 minutes

After baking in the oven the masks will sit in a bag for three days and then will be redistributed to their original healthcare professional.

Dwyer said he is hoping to iron out the details within the next couple of days.

He said there is still some testing that needs to be done but said he is hopeful they will start collecting masks next week from healthcare providers.

The testing is done at MSU Food Processing and Innovation Center.

There is no cooking with food involved.

Dwyer said other organizations are looking into also using this decontamination process.

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