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Duke Health Recycling N95 Masks

The N95 mask made by 3M

Duke Health is now using recycled N-95 masks in its three hospitals amid a critical shortage prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The masks are being decontaminated through a process that was already being used to clean other medical equipment.

Here's how it works: N-95 masks are hung on a metal rack in an empty room. A portable machine fills the room with vaporized hydrogen peroxide, permeating the masks. The room is vented and then the masks are dried. The entire process takes about five hours.

"We don't 100% know what our total production capacity yet is, but we think it will have a significant impact on our supply chain," said Dr. Monte Brown, who estimates they can clean about 800 masks in one cycle.

Brown added the process could be adopted widely by other hospitals.

"Depending on if you already have a room ready, within two weeks you can be up and going," he said.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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