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Instead Of Tossing Them, Researchers Suspect N-95 Masks Could Be Sanitized And Reused

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Researchers at Binghamton University received federal funds from the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief efforts.

One grant-funded project looks at how to best disinfect N-95 masks. Hospitals in New York faced a shortage of personal protective equipment earlier in the pandemic, often they had to throw away masks after each use.

BU biomedical engineering professors Kaiming Ye and Guy German received a $182,728 grant to look at how germicidal ultraviolet light technology can sterilize contaminated masks, making them reusable by hospital staff.

According to German, the N-95 masks worn by doctors have thick layers.

“One of the aspects that we’re trying to ascertain is, ‘Will UVC be able to penetrate into the mask and kill the virus inside the mask as well?’” German said.

The researchers are also working with local hospitals and schools to implement UV sterilization systems. The University’s biomedical engineering department supplied sterilization systems to both Lourdes Hospital and UHS in Binghamton.  They're also working with the Vestal Central School District to set up disinfecting systems in classrooms, gymnasiums and cafeterias.

“We’re hoping we can get the devices ready and deployed to their schools before classes start,” Ye said.

According to Ye, if utilized on a larger scale, this technology can also be used to disinfect the air in subway stations and airports.

Another $200,000 National Science Foundation grant, secured by Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer, will go to BU’s COVID research program. A university spokesperson said the latest grant will fund research by anthropology professor Katherine Wander on nutrition in healthcare workers.