Eugene Will Start Decontaminating N95 Masks

Eugene will be one of 60 N95 mask decontamination sites with the arrival of a Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System, according to the state’s My Oregon News website.

The University of Oregon will house the containers for a charge in facilities at the Romania lot, located on the corner of Franklin and Orchard, according to Around The O.

Battelle, a nonprofit based in Ohio, received a $400 million contract from the Defense Logistics Agency on behalf of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to an April 10 press release from the nonprofit. The multimillion-dollar contract covers the nonprofit’s costs of staffing and training operators, who will be deployed throughout the U.S.

The decontamination system is meant to bridge the gap until the N95 supply chain can meet the demand. Health care providers are using the Battelle system at no charge thanks to the federal funding, according to the nonprofit.

Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System uses concentrated, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide (VPHP) and works by exposing used respirator masks to the validated concentration level for 2.5 hours to decontaminate biological contaminates, including COVID-19, according to a March 28 press release from the company.

The decontamination system can treat up to 80,000 N95 respirators per day. It can decontaminate the same mask up to 20 times without degrading its ability to protect users from airborne pathogens, Battelle says.

The decontamination system caught the eye of President Donald Trump, who took to Twitter on March 29, saying that the FDA should approve it — which it did hours later.

In a letter dated March 29, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the decontamination system. The FDA said in the letter that the decontamination system can alleviate the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that there are no alternatives, the FDA said approval outweighs the known and unknown risks of the system.

Among other criteria, the FDA is requiring that Battelle report any adverse events associated with the system to the agency. Battelle will also report weekly to the FDA information from health care facility customers regarding the degradation of decontaminated N95 respirators and reports of infection or potential infection of users of the decontaminated N95 respirators.

Battelle personnel will test occasionally for COVID-19, according to the FDA.

At a recent press conference, Gov. Kate Brown said the Battelle system will help the state clean masks in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

The Battelle system loads the PPE into a decontamination chamber, undergoes a decontamination cycle, sampled to ensure it’s free of residue and then packaged and readied to be returned. The PPE is shipped back to who sent it and the cycle starts all over again. Each decontaminated mask has a barcode to identify the hospital it belongs to, as well as mark which decontamination cycle it’s on.

According to My Oregon News, the Eugene site will have a crew of about 20 people and will disinfect masks from throughout the state. The Pacific Northwest has three sites now — one in Tacoma, Washington, and another in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Battelle is a nonprofit research organization based in Ohio. The company’s history includes work in the military industry, where it developed material to protect individuals from biological and chemical warfare.