Particle removal from air by face masks made from Sterilization Wraps: Effectiveness and Reusability

PLoS One. 2020 Oct 14;15(10):e0240398. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240398. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Wearing face masks is highly recommended to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in health care workers and for the general public. The demand for high quality face masks has seen an upsurge in the recent times, leading to exploration of alternative economic and easily available options, without compromising on the quality. Particle removal from air in terms of capture efficiency of the filter media or the face mask is a crucial parameter for testing and quality assurance. Short-term reusability of the face masks is also an important aspect as the demand for masks will potentially outstrip the supply in future. Sterilization Wraps, which are used to wrap sterile surgical instruments, have shown a promising performance in terms of removal of particles from air. In this study, we evaluate the particle filtration characteristics of face masks made of 2 different metric weights [45 and 60 gram per square metre (GSM)] respectively, using locally available Sterilization Wraps. The aerosol filtration characteristics were also studied after sterilisation by different techniques such as heat with 50% humidity (thermal treatment), ethylene oxide (ETO), steam and radiation dose of 30kGy. We found that 60 GSM face mask had particle capture efficiency of 94% for total particles greater than 0.3 microns and this capture efficiency was maintained even after sterilisation with ETO and thermal treatment. The cost of producing these masks was 30 US cents/mask at our institute. Our study suggests that sterilization wrap material made of non-woven polypropylene spunbond-meltblown-spunbond (SMS) fibres could be an appropriate readily available inexpensive material for making face masks or N95 respirators.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / chemistry
  • Disinfection / methods
  • Disinfection / standards
  • Ethylene Oxide / chemistry
  • Filtration / standards
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Masks / standards*
  • Particle Size*
  • Personal Protective Equipment / standards*
  • Polypropylenes / chemistry
  • Textiles / standards*

Substances

  • Aerosols
  • Polypropylenes
  • Ethylene Oxide

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.