Nurse union balks at reuse of stained, decontaminated N95 masks

Nurses and other front-line clinicians are raising concerns about a decontamination system used to disinfect N95 masks amid the pandemic, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Battelle Memorial Institute received more than $400 million in federal contracts to develop the system, which decontaminates masks using vaporized hydrogen peroxide.

The Columbus, Ohio-base nonprofit company claims that its system allows N95 masks to be safely reused up to 20 times, helping to preserve the limited supply of masks during the pandemic, but front-line healthcare workers and unions have cast doubt on those claims, according to the Journal.

Masks decontaminated by Batelle have been returned to healthcare workers with worn-out seals and respiratory stains from previous users, Rick Lucas, BSN, RN, a union leader at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told the Journal.

Mr. Lucas said the state of the masks after decontamination has created "a lot of anxiety for nurses and healthcare workers."

A spokesperson for OSU Wexner said the medical center plans to reuse masks five times instead of 20.

Batelle stands by its system's safety and does not plan to update its guidance on how many times masks can be decontaminated.

"We are very confident the science is sound," Batelle's CEO Lou Von Thaer told the publication. "We would clearly adjust if we needed to, but we’ve seen no evidence yet that would lead us in that direction."

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