Electric cooker offers an effective decontamination method for N95 masks

August 10, 2020

Researchers have found out that electric cookers, such as rice cookers, are able to decontaminate N95 respirator masks inside out while also maintaining their filtration and fit. N95 respirators are recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against airborne droplets and particles, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Severe shortage of N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a search for creative and effective approaches to sanitisation.

Led by civil and environmental engineering professors Thanh “Helen” Nguyen and Vishal Verma, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, US, the researchers verified that one method, using a type of device many people have in their pantries, decontaminated the masks from four different classes of virus and did so more effectively than ultraviolet (UV) light.

“There are many different ways to sterilise something, but most of them will destroy the filtration or the fit of an N95 respirator,” Verma said. “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. Otherwise, it will not offer the right protection.”

One cooking cycle in an electric cooker, which sustains its heat content at about 100 degrees Celsius or 212 Fahrenheit for 50 minutes, maintained the filtration capacity of the respirators at more than 95% and kept their fit. Verma conceded that the N95 respirators were “still properly seated on the wearer’s face, even after 20 cycles of decontamination in the electric cooker.”

In demonstrating their method, the researchers emphasised that the heat must be dry heat – with no water added to the cooker and a small towel added to cover the bottom of the cooker to keep any part of the respirator from coming into direct contact with the heating element. Multiple masks can be stacked to fit inside the cooker at the same time as well.

The electric-cooker method could be useful for health care workers and first responders, especially those that do not have access to large-scale heat sanitisation equipment and for others who may have an N95 respirator at home.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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