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Coronavirus: Peterborough task force aims to decontaminate, recycle N95 masks

A group in Peterborough, Ont., is exploring the possibility of saving and decontaminating used masks.
A group in Peterborough, Ont., is exploring the possibility of saving and decontaminating used masks. The Canadian Press

A task force in Peterborough is working to create a process to decontaminate and recycle N95 masks for health-care workers as local supplies are depleted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group includes Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development, the Innovation Cluster, Trent University, GMP and Health and Safety Consulting, Peterborough County (representing Peterborough Paramedics) and Lifestyle Home Products.

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Recently, Peterborough Public Health gave permission to paramedics and the Peterborough Regional Health Centre to not throw out used N95 masks in case of emergency. As of Wednesday, Peterborough Paramedics say they have a two-week supply left.

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According to a release from the Innovation Cluster on Thursday, the task force is currently searching for a Steris VHP 1000ED Mobile Biodecontamination System or a similar system. It’s a mobile unit that decontaminates enclosed areas up to 10,000 cubic feet. The system uses a dry vapour sterilization process that allows decontamination of sensitive products, including N95 masks.

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“If the country moves into crisis mode, we will have this process in place for other areas to adopt immediately,” said John Gillis, president of the Innovation Cluster.

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The group asks those who might have such resources to reach them by emailing Gillis at jgillis@innovationcluster.ca.

Other options for alternative mask designs and decontamination/sterilization of existing masks continue to be explored, Gillis said.

On Wednesday, the health unit reported six new cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total to 51 cases in the Peterborough area. Fourteen of the cases have been resolved.