Mask Reuse in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Creating an Inexpensive and Scalable Ultraviolet System for Filtering Facepiece Respirator Decontamination

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2020 Sep 30;8(3):582-595. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-20-00218. Print 2020 Sep 30.


As the current COVID-19 pandemic illustrates, not all hospitals and other patient care facilities are equipped with enough personal protective equipment to meet the demand in a crisis. Health care workers around the world use filtering facepiece respirators to protect themselves and their patients, yet during this global pandemic they are forced to reuse what are intended to be single-use masks. This poses a significant risk to these health care workers along with the people they are trying to protect. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) has been validated previously as a method to effectively decontaminate these masks between use. However, not all facilities have access to the expensive commercial ultraviolet type C (UV-C) lamp decontamination equipment required for UVGI. UV-C bulbs are sitting idle in biosafety cabinets at universities and research facilities around the world that have been shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19. These bulbs may also be available in existing medical centers where infectious diseases are commonly treated. We developed a method to modify existing light fixtures or create custom light fixtures that are compatible with new or existing UV-C bulbs. This system is scalable; can be created for less than US$50, on site and at the point of need; and leverages resources that are currently untapped and sitting unused in public and private research facilities during the pandemic. The freely accessible design can be easily modified for use around the world. Health care facilities can obtain this potentially lifesaving UVGI resource with minimal funds by collaborating with research facilities to obtain the UV-C meters and UV-C bulbs if they are unavailable from other sources. Although mask reuse is not ideal, we must do what we can in emergency situations to protect our health care workers responding to the pandemic and the communities they serve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Decontamination / methods*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Ultraviolet Rays*