Can masks be sterilized, reused in fight against coronavirus? Experts say yes

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As health-care workers continue on the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic, quantities of personal protective equipment — particularly masks — have become an issue.

On Sunday, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the Canadian government was exploring the possibility of sterilizing masks for reuse.

“It is one of the most important and, I think, worthwhile lines of pursuit for personal protective equipment right now,” she said.

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There are several sterilization facilities in Canada that are likely capable of sterilizing N95 masks, most of which are already in the business of sterilizing consumer products, medical supplies, some foods and medical products like cannabis.

One such company, Nordion, along with two other companies owned by Sotera Health — Sterigenics and Nelson Labs — are already working with the Canadian government to evaluate methods to resterilize personal protective equipment.

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The companies work with gamma irradiation, which they said acts as an effective method of reducing or eliminating a wide variety of micro-organisms, including viruses.

Another company, Mevex, uses a machine called an electron accelerator.

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