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iMASC: A Reusable Face Mask that Works like an N95 Respirator

A prototype mask created by researchers, iMASC is a new silicone mask that can be safely reused without fear of contamination.

Nurses and Doctors have gone to creative extremes to reuse the same mask, gloves, and scrubs they need to treat contagious coronavirus patients.

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iMASC (Credits

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have developed the iMASC. Researchers still need to analyze how effectively it catches viral particles, but it’s a promising step toward addressing the critical health care supply shortages.

The iMASC offers a level of protection comparable to N95 respirator masks, its creators say. The masks are based on the shape of a typical N95 mask, but they’re made with silicon rubber that can be sterilized after each use. Researchers also added the dual filters that cover the mouth can be replaced after each use.

The mask is a 3D printed material and tested its use among nurses and physicians, who scored the mask for breathability, fit, and ease of filter replacement.

In a study about the iMASC published in the British Medical Journal Open, researchers said shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, in hospitals, created a “critical need” for reusable safety gear.

Due to shortages of the masks and other PPE, like scrubs and gloves, physicians have had to reuse potentially contaminated gear, which could expose them or their patients to coronavirus.

The researchers used several different sterilization methods on iMASC, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in both bleach and isopropyl alcohol. The silicone material was undamaged after each test.

The MIT team is working on a new version of the mask, which they’ll test to see if it can efficiently filter viral particles. In the meantime, hospital workers — and people who work at essential businesses and schools that plan to reopen — are urging local, state, and federal leaders to provide more PPE to protect their health.