© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

To Prevent N95 Shortage, Hospitals Use New Decontamination Process

Courtesy of VCU



Researchers at VCU have developed a new way to decontaminate N-95 masks in bulk. The masks are important protection for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients, and now VCU health officials say they can safely be reused. 


The N-95 masks are being decontaminated using ultraviolet light. Using UV light to kill viruses isn’t new, but what VCU has done is made it possible on a large scale. explains doctor Stephen Kates. 

“We’ve made it on a production line where we are decontaminating many many masks at one time,” explains doctor Stephen Kates, who helped develop the process. 

In addition to cleaning 12,000 masks a day, the health system has also developed rigorous quality control so they know the masks are still effective. 

“We re-inspect the mask to make sure it’s ok, put it in a plastic packaging, and then return it to its previous owner for use on their next shift,” says Kates. 

The goal is to prevent a shortage of masks as the number of coronavirus patients rises. VCU has shared details of the sterilization procedure with the University of Virginia and Sentara Health. 

A spokesman for UVA says they intend to use the procedure as well.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.


Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.