Masks Tested CSU lab

Colorado State University Mechanical Engineering assistant professor Christian L’Orange prepares an N95 mask for testing by sealing it to a frame with beeswax.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the apparatus designed to decontaminate N95 respirators available for school employees and other front-line workers.

“As states, local governments, and school districts develop strategies to support and protect teachers and students in the pending school year, it is critical that they have access to all available tools to enhance teacher and student safety, including the Battelle CCDS, should the FDA determine it to be safe and effective for this use,” Gardner wrote in a letter dated July 24.

Colorado currently has two Battelle Critical Care Decontamination Systems located in the Denver area and Montrose. The FDA gave the Battelle Memorial Institute emergency authorization to deploy the machines, which can handle up to 80,000 respirator decontaminations per day. The apparatus uses vapor phase hydrogen peroxide, and the Columbus-based company has deployed its systems to more than 40 sites nationwide.

However, the March authorization is limited to respirators used by “healthcare personnel in a healthcare setting.”

“Other examples of professionals who could potentially benefit from access to this technology are Transportation Security Administration agents, bus drivers, grocery store workers, and many other personnel in public-facing jobs,” continued Gardner in his letter.

The expansion of N95 decontamination presumes that other types of workers are able to procure the respirators. Vox reported earlier in July that, as was the case early in the pandemic, medical personnel are still suffering from N95 shortages. Doctors in Houston have had to wear single-use respirators for up to 15 days, according to The New York Times. The man who patented the filtration material in the N95 has even come out of retirement, The Washington Post found, and spends up to 20 hours per day testing different methods of sterilization.

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