Can Surgical Masks Be Reused?
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As the coronavirus continues to spread, masks have in many places become mandatory on public transport, in shops and at work.But cost has become an issue, as has the fact so many disposable plastic masks wind up in waterways and the oceans. One alternative is reusable cloth masks, but many people prefer single-use surgical masks because they are lighter and individually cheaper.

"Medical masks are for single use only," the World Health Organization has said. "Discard the mask immediately, preferably into a closed bin." But faced with shortages during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April, the WHO allowed in a June report for "Exceptional procedures" to disinfect throw-away masks for reuse.

The US Food and Drug Administration recommends-in emergency circumstances-hydrogen peroxide vapour to decontaminate the N95 masks worn by healthcare workers.

Seven-day method Adios Corona-a group of scientists who provide information on COVID-19 to the public-recommends "Placing the mask in a paper envelope with the date clearly marked, and leaving it for seven days".

"Several scientific studies show that viruses are almost all dead on a mask after seven days," said Denis Corpet, French microbiologist and member of Adios Corona. A study published in The Lancet found that only 0.1 percent of the virus on the outside surface of the mask was still detectable after one week.

Disposable masks can also be placed in the oven, told Peter Tsai, the inventor of N95 electrostatically charged filter material, ideally at a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees Celsius-not too high to avoid burning the plastic, but sufficiently hot to kill the virus.

"Washing the mask at home could potentially cause a secondary contamination and spread the virus if washing is not set appropriately," said Kaiming Ye, head of the biomedical engineering department at New York's Binghamton University.

"Single-use surgical masks must be thrown into the bin after use," said France's health authority DGS, but noted that more studies were underway.

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