U of T researchers develop reusable, sustainable surgical mask

January 6, 2021
surgical mask

Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine are developing sustainable personal protective equipment (PPE) under the initiative, the ROSE (Re-useable Open-Source Equipment) Project, helmed by  Associate Professor Denyse Richardson; and Lecturer, Reena Kilian. They worked with textile engineer, an architect, sewing experts, a knowledge translation expert and a medical student to develop a reusable mask that meets Level 1 safety criteria.

According to Kilian, disposable surgical masks commonly used are non-biodegradable/recyclable because they are made of plastic, and are intended to be worn only once.  The masks being developed by the team can be washed and worn multiple times; as well, the ROSE project aims to use materials that are readily accessible.  

With the help of James Scott, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the team is defining what and how materials can be used to create a mask that will satisfy important criteria, including filtration and proper fit while maintaining breathability. The masks are also being tested in the aerosol lab against two standards, namely, the US. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health ( NIOSH), and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The next step is to find out how many times the masks can be reused while maintaining their protective qualities, which the team hopes will happen in the year ahead, Richardson said.

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