Supercritical CO2 sterilization: An effective treatment to reprocess FFP3 face masks and to reduce waste during COVID-19 pandemic

Víctor Santos-Rosales, Clara López-Iglesias, Ana Sampedro-Viana, Carmen Alvarez-Lorenzo, Samaneh Ghazanfari, Beatriz Magariños, Carlos A García-González*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic unveiled an unprecedented scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE) available in sanitary premises and for the population worldwide. This situation fostered the development of new strategies to reuse PPE that would ensure sterility and, simultaneously, preserve the filtering properties of the materials. In addition, the reuse of PPEs by reprocessing could reduce the environmental impact of the massive single-use and disposal of these materials. Conventional sterilization techniques such as steam or dry heat, ethylene oxide, and gamma irradiation may alter the functional properties of the PPEs and/or leave toxic residues. Supercritical CO2 (scCO(2))-based sterilization is herein proposed as a safe, sustainable, and rapid sterilization method for contaminated facemasks while preserving their performance. The functional (bacterial filtration efficiency, breathability, splash resistance, straps elasticity) properties of the processed FFP3 face masks were evaluated after 1 and 10 cycles of sterilization. Log-6 sterilization reduction levels were obtained for face masks contaminated with Bacillus pumilus endospores at mild operating conditions (CO2 at 39 degrees C and 100 bar for 30 min) and with low contents of H2O2 (150 ppm). Physicochemical properties of the FFP3 face masks remained unchanged after reprocessing and differences in efficacy were not observed neither in the filtration tests, following UNE-EN 14683, nor in the integrity of FFP3 filtration after the sterilization process. The herein presented method based on scCO(2) technology is the first reported protocol achieving the reprocessing of FFP3 masks up to 10 cycles while preserving their functional properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154089
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume826
Early online date23 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • BACTERIA
  • Bacillus pumilus
  • CARBON-DIOXIDE
  • DISINFECTION PROCESS
  • FILTRATION EFFICIENCY
  • Face mask
  • INACTIVATION
  • LIVE/DEAD BACLIGHT KIT
  • MICROBIAL-CELLS
  • MICROORGANISMS
  • PPE reprocessing
  • SACCHAROMYCES-CEREVISIAE
  • Sterilization
  • Supercritical carbon dioxide
  • VIABILITY

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