Kitchener Today: U of G helps develop new way to sanitize N95 masks

Developed by food scientist Keith Warriner and a Niagara-area company, the “clean flow” technology enables health-care facilities to decontaminate much-needed N95 masks for safe reuse. He said proper sanitation is important for reusing personal protective equipment such as masks to prevent the spread of infection among health-care workers.

Following approval from Health Canada last week, the first portable decontamination units were to be delivered this week to hospital health networks across Canada, including Hamilton Health Sciences and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Orders for the units made by Clean Works Medical in Beamsville, Ont., have also been placed by Niagara Health Region, Toronto EMS and National Research Council in Ottawa.

The device is based on technology developed by Warriner for waterless cleaning of fruits and vegetables. His process combines ultraviolet (UV) light, hydrogen peroxide and ozone to make compounds that kill pathogens.

Adapted for health-care use, each device can sanitize up to 800 N95 masks in an hour. Batches of masks are loaded on conveyor racks, run continuously through the unit and sanitized in 30 seconds.

Likening the process to an airport X-ray scanner, Warriner said: “It’s a game-changer as it combines the benefits of using hydrogen peroxide vapour and UV while overcoming the limitations of applying either alone.”

Last month, he began talking with the Niagara company about adapting its produce-cleaning technology for sanitizing masks. Clean Works has since gone from making a unit a week for intended use in produce decontamination to making several devices each week for hospitals and other health-care facilities as well as the food industry.

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