A household appliance, which may be sitting inside your kitchen cabinet, can now be recycled as a powerful tool fighting to control COVID-19. Researchers with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) developed a do-it-yourself solution to decontaminate personal protective equipment (PPE) using a programmable multicooker.
Personal protective equipment, specifically respiratory protection such as N95 masks, are an effective way to reduce exposure to airborne SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. With high demand resulting in limited supply, S&T focused efforts on finding affordable and easy methods that allow masks to safely be reused.
Evaluating common household devices, researchers identified programmable multicookers as a readily accessible and effective means to decontaminate masks, using moist heat, one of three methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Moist heat decontamination is achieved by treating masks with 149°F steam for 30 minutes. Key steps include:
- Placing the mask(s) in a paper bag,
- Filling the multicooker with a half inch of water and
- Setting the bag on a rack inside of it.
S&T verified these conditions inactivate the virus below detectable limits in culture media and simulated saliva, while the masks still meet performance specifications after five treatments. Further research will determine if the virus is also inactivated in lung fluid, and whether this process is effective for additional treatments.
General Biological Scientist Dr. Lloyd Hough, said, “We hope front line personnel who need to use them can take advantage of this approach to extend the life of their limited supply of this critical piece of PPE.”