COVID-19 September 22

Shining a light on PPE conservation

Disinfecting N95 masks with UV light technology

Laboratory UV disinfection

Creativity is born of scarcity. A study from 2015, co-authored by University of Illinois professor of business administration Ravi Mehta, investigated the link between resource availability and consumer creativity. Mehta writes, “While scarcity has been a pervasive aspect of human life, people in modern industrialized societies take resource availability for granted.”1 The results were clear. We not only thrive when resources are limited; we actually need this kind of challenge. Fast forward five years to 2020. Healthcare professionals are forced to find creative ways to conserve PPE in times of shortage—from reusing gloves and linens to disinfecting gowns and masks. One of those techniques is by disinfecting N95 masks with UV light technology.

Disinfecting with UV light is not new. In 2014, UV light was used to disinfect rooms in hospitals treating Ebola patients.2 Now, UV lights are being used to preserve PPE. This experimental procedure is used to decontaminate N95 masks with ultraviolet light to allow them to be used for a longer period of time.

“While scarcity has been a pervasive aspect of human life, people in modern industrialized societies take resource availability for granted.”
— Ravi Mehta

When conservation strategies aren’t enough

We’ve published other articles about PPE conservation strategies, and the CDC has developed detailed contingency and crisis strategies to help healthcare facilities conserve their supplies in the face of shortages.3

  • conventional (everyday practice)
  • contingency (expected shortages)
  • crisis (known shortages) capacities

In most cases, hospitals and other healthcare providers are facing crisis levels. And with the shortage of masks, more and more creative solutions are being implemented to help solve the shortage. Once other best practice reuse strategies (see CDC article mentioned above) have been implemented, decontamination is another solution. However, this method, along with others indicated in the CDC guidelines, should be viewed as risk management rather than as a “complete decontamination.”  We recommend that healthcare personnel should continue to handle the respirator as if it is contaminated and reuse only their own mask. Please also note that caution should be taken when exercising this potential decontamination method given the lack of extensive testing on degradation to the masks as well as BFE testing.

“We’re also having issues with our supply line and we’re doing everything we can to try to preserve the ability to use appropriate PPE in the care of patients. So, we started this UV decontamination and reuse of N95 respirators, which I think is really an innovative approach.”
—Dr. Mark Rupp, medical director of the department of infection control and epidemiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC)

Crisis gives way to innovation

What are the guidelines for decontamination? From a high-level, the CDC outlines the three methods that show the most promise for decontamination and reuse of filtering facepiece respirators:

  1. ultraviolet germicidal irradiation
  2. vaporous hydrogen peroxide
  3. moist heat

Where do we come in? Medline’s Solaris Lytbot meets the criteria outlined by the CDC to satisfy the “Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)” option and is considered a potential method to disinfect these respirators. UV disinfection, when added to a comprehensive environmental disinfection program, can help control surface linked infection spread.* The Solaris Lytbot has a validated pulsed UV system that safely, rapidly and reliably eliminates pathogens missed during cleaning.

The challenges with the supply chain are only increasing, and conservation strategies—from the simplest, do-it-yourself methods to more robust innovations that serve your facility beyond the pandemic—will continue to be an inevitable part of our protocol going forward.

Read more about the Solaris Lytbot UV technology and the war on superbugs. And for further information regarding the new CDC Guidance and the Solaris Lytbot for your facility, reach out to Alexa Smith or your Medline Representative.

*The Solaris Lytbot is validated by independent 3rd party laboratories to reduce pathogen load on various hospital room surfaces. Studies show that microbiologically cleaner surfaces lead to safer spaces for patients.