Columbus, Ohio (June 1, 2020)—In late March, workers at a Columbus warehouse were loading Battelle’s Critical Care Decontamination Systems onto truck beds. The technology is the first of its kind – modular so they could be easily shipped to coronavirus hot spots, with the promise of being able to clean 80,000 pieces of personal protective equipment for re-use up to 20 times.
Battelle’s technology was given FDA approval after about a week of urging from Gov. Mike DeWine and even President Donald Trump.
Several Central Ohio hospitals were the first in the country to send N95 masks for decontamination, at no cost. But the units didn't work quite as expected.
"After the extended wearing and the decontamination, the mask is not as formed as it was," says Ohio State Wexner Medical Center nurse Rick Lucas. "So there’s concern about the integrity of the seal on the mask."
Lucas is a union representative for the health center’s 4,000 nurses. He says he received reports of issues with the decontaminated masks.
"A couple of nurses have reported that they’ve had some irritation in their throat or some coughing after wearing one that has come back from decontamination, or noticing a smell or odor," Lucas says.
Lucas says he worries that the health system will continue to rely on old masks decontaminated by Battelle for free, instead of buying new N95 masks.
In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Wexner Medical Center says they are working with Battelle to ensure the masks meet their standards. The hospital system says about 93% of the masks they send to Battelle are returned, and that they have not received reports or complaints regarding the sterilized masks.
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