Paris: Health officials say surgical masks should be thrown away after a single use – the most widespread anti-gun weapon, but environmental concerns are forcing some scientists to question the recommendation.
As coronavirus continues to spread, masks are mandatory in many places in public transport, shops and work.
But cost has become a problem, as many disposable plastic masks are lurking in waterways and oceans.
One alternative is reusable clothing masks, but many people prefer single-use surgical masks because they are lighter and are individually cheaper.
“Medical masks are for one use only,” the World Health Organization said. “Immediately discard the mask, preferably into a closed bin.”
But in March and April, the WHO, which suffered shortages during the first wave of the Kovid-19 pandemic, allowed disinfection of reusable masks for “exceptional procedures.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – in an emergency – recommends hydrogen peroxide vapor to defile the N95 masks worn by health workers.
Other methods of cleansing single-use masks are exposure to high temperature or ultraviolet radiation.
But these methods are uncomfortable for people at home, said the French microbiologist and member of the Denis carpet, Adios Corona.
Adios Corona – a group of scientists providing information to the public about the Kovid-19 – recommends “put the mask on a paper envelope with a clearly marked date and leave it for seven days.”
“Several scientific studies show that after seven days the viruses are dead on the mask,” Carpet said.
A study published in The Lancet found that only 0.1 percent of the virus on the outer surface of the mask was detected a week later.
However, this approach is not suitable for health care workers exposed to high viral loads.
Peter Tsai, inventor of N95 electrostatic charged filter materials, agrees with the seven-day method.
But they suggest leaving the masks open for a week before recycling, repeating the cycle they say five to 10 times.
Disposable masks can also be put in the oven, Tsai told AFP, ideally at temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees Celsius (158 and 167 degrees Fahrenheit) – not too high to avoid burning plastic, but hot enough to kill the virus.
It is not advisable to wash the masks in the washing machine.
“Washing without detergent may not wash the virus,” Tsai said. “And rinsing with detergent eliminates (electrostatic) charges,” reducing its efficiency.
The French consumer rights group UFC-Q Choiser washed and ironed surgical masks on the 60C. After 10 such cycles, the masks still filter at least 90 percent of the 3-micron particles.
“Aside from being a bit hit, washed surgical masks are as effective as the best clothing masks,” the UFC-Q Choiser reported last week.
Philip Vromann, a researcher at the French engineering university Ensight, reached the same conclusion.
After five washes, Vroman said, “There are practically no differences (discovery) for the 3 microns particles,” based on preliminary results not yet published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“And we swap masks every four hours and some people wash them for several days in a row rather than wear them. It’s like little underwear,” he said.
But not all scientists agree.
“Washing the mask at home can cause secondary contamination, and the virus can spread if the rinse is not properly set up,” said Cuming Ye, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Binghamton University in New York.
Until further research is published on this issue, the official advice of health authorities is not set to change.
France’s health authority, DGS, said “single-use surgical masks should be thrown into the bin after use,” but noted that more studies are underway.

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