Columbus, Ohio (April 11, 2020)—Inside the rural Ohio labs run by Battelle, a nonprofit research and development firm, scientists have tested explosives, experimented with atomic energy and worked with chemical nerve agents. But some of the group’s most critical work is now happening outside, in a parking lot.
Under a sprawling tent near the small town of West Jefferson, employees have spent the recent weeks decontaminating over 30,000 used face masks for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each day, N95 masks collected from more than 100 hospitals, clinics, fire departments and nursing homes are treated for hours with a hydrogen peroxide vapor. Once cleaned, the masks are sent back to the same facilities to be reused.
A severe shortage of personal protective equipment has left hospitals desperate as the outbreak continues to spread.
Automakers, fashion designers, furniture manufacturers, tech companies and other organizations have in recent weeks been rushing to manufacture and distribute new masks — part of a growing and improvised effort to increase the supply.
For Battelle, which usually develops products across a range of disciplines, from robotics to oil drilling, the decontamination project is an attempt to extend the lives of masks that already exist.
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