According to a recent study, ozone gas, a reactive chemical containing three oxygen atoms, may offer a secure method for sterilizing specific kinds of personal protective equipment that are currently in great demand to safeguard healthcare workers from Covid-19.

The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers conducted a study using two pathogens resembling the novel coronavirus. The study discovered that ozone can effectively deactivate viruses on various items such as Tyvek gowns, polycarbonate face shields, goggles, and respirator masks, without causing any damage. However, the ozone treatment should not be used on items that have stapled-on elastic straps.

According to the study, to ensure the ozone treatment’s consistency and effectiveness in disinfecting, it is crucial to maintain a relative humidity of at least 50% in the chambers.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities may need to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) during local and regional surges of coronavirus infections due to shortages of PPE that was originally intended for single use.

According to Finn, who also occupies the James A. Carlos Family Chair for Pediatric Technology, healthcare facilities have employed a variety of techniques such as ultraviolet light, vaporized hydrogen peroxide, heat, and alcohol to disinfect items. However, ozone disinfection for PPE had not garnered much attention until recently.

Ozone is a commonly employed agent for disinfecting wastewater, purifying drinking water, sanitizing food items, and even disinfecting various types of equipment and clothing. Commercial ozone disinfection cabinets are accessible, which utilize the oxidizing properties of the gas to eradicate bacteria and inactivate viruses.

The research team was introduced to a manufacturer of ozone disinfection chambers by Loren Williams, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. This facilitated the evaluation of the equipment using the test protocol.

While conducting the test, the researchers discovered that maintaining a relative humidity of at least 50% in the chamber was crucial for consistent and rapid inactivation of viruses. They also observed that the N-95 filtration material was not adversely affected by the ozone treatment. However, the elastic materials used to secure the masks were damaged by the ozone, even though it did not impair their filtration capabilities.

Taking off and putting back on the elastic headbands of the masks during ozone disinfection might render the ozone treatment method unfeasible when performed on a large scale.

According to Finn, hospitals and other organizations could consider using ozone as a feasible approach to sanitize garments, goggles, and gloves. This method is cost-effective and could be a valuable option for healthcare facilities, particularly in regions with limited resources. Finn expressed the hope that sharing their findings would encourage more organizations to consider this alternative.