Warnings Surface About New System to Disinfect N95 Masks – By Todd Horwitz Chief Strategist, Bubba Trading


Warnings Surface About New System to Disinfect N95 Masks

Hundreds of thousands of respirator masks to protect against coronavirus have been sent through a decontamination system that has triggered warnings from front-line workers and has so far cost the government more than $110 a mask.

The system is made by Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research corporation that has built more than 50 mask-decontamination units after getting more than $400 million in federal government contracts. Battelle said its process allows for N95 respirator masks to be reused 20 times.

It is a widely watched coronavirus initiative aimed at preserving the limited supply of protective equipment held by U.S. hospitals. In recent weeks, hospitals have put 700,000 used medical-grade face masks through the newly created system to sanitize and reissue them, Battelle Chief Executive Officer Lou Von Thaer said last week.

He said Battelle has billed the U.S. $78 million so far and that the government’s per-mask cost will likely drop as the system is used more. He also said the machines could be used in future health crises. Battelle expects the costs to come down to $7 a mask “within a few months,” spokeswoman Rose Rankin said. She added that “the variables are changing constantly,” and noted that the roughly $110 figure was as of Friday. Battelle expects the number of masks decontaminated to increase as elective surgeries and dental procedures resume.

Battelle’s decontamination system exposes used masks to vaporized hydrogen peroxide in modified shipping containers for a few hours and then allows the masks to air out until the concentration of the chemical drops to acceptable levels.

The use of these systems shows hospitals’ continuing intense demand for protective gear. N95 masks, so called because they filter out 95% of very small particles, are in high demand because they are designed to protect wearers from diseases. When quality masks can be found now, they commonly cost $5 or more, more than double the cost before the pandemic.

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Todd “Bubba” Horwitz

Financial Markets and Political Commentary


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About the author

Todd Horwitz - Author of “Average Joe Options“. Todd began his trading career in 1980 at the CBOE. He was one of the original traders in the OEX & helped start the SPX. He is a member the CME where he trades S&P futures as well as foreign currencies & is a regular contributor to CNBC, Bloomberg, BNN, Fox & many other major news networks.