Global study investigates decontamination methods for medical masks

About the Project

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers, such as medical masks and N95 respirators, is critical for preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, the pandemic has created a high demand for PPE globally, and there is a need to ensure a sustainable supply of this equipment–to keep healthcare providers, their patients, and others safe during this outbreak.

A potential solution to this problem is the ability to decontaminate and re-use PPE. This multi-centre study will focus on the delivery of a simple, easy-to-perform decontamination method for medical masks and N95 respirators, while also maintaining the performance integrity of the PPE. Results from this study could allow medical masks and N95 respirators to be re-used by providers in a number of different locations around the world, from remote villages to large metropolitan areas.

Dr. May C. Chu, PhD, at the Colorado School of Public Health, coordinated this global study on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Infection Prevention Control-Personal Protective Equipment research group.  The Calgary study site is operated through the W21C Research and Innovation Centre and is overseen by infectious disease specialist Dr. John Conly, MD.

W21C researchers assessed the effects of three decontamination methods on N95 respirators, surgical/procedural masks, and cloth masks in terms of fit, visual appearance and comfort. We also studied acceptance by healthcare worker of the masks following decontamination. This included questions about their perceived protection from pathogens, any concerns about contamination they might have, and their perceptions of third-party decontamination method endorsements.


The findings from this evaluation have the potential to allow medical masks and N95 respirators to be re-used by providers in a number of different locations around the world. This would cut down on waste and allow medical workers to have access to masks during times of potential shortage.

Services Provided

  • Survey and Questionnaire Support
  • Knowledge Translation
  • Medical and Scientific Oversight
  • Usability Testing

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