According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, ozone gas could provide a safe and effective method for disinfecting certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are in high demand for shielding healthcare personnel from Covid-19. Ozone is a highly reactive chemical made up of three oxygen atoms and is known to be one of the friendliest and cleanest ways of deactivating viruses and killing most any pathogen.

The study found that ozone can inactivate viruses on items such as Tyvek gowns, polycarbonate face shields, goggles, and respirator masks without damaging them. However, the consistency and effectiveness of the ozone treatment depended on maintaining relative humidity of at least 50% in chambers used for disinfection.

The researchers used two pathogens similar to the novel coronavirus and found that ozone could be produced with inexpensive equipment by exposing oxygen in the atmosphere to ultraviolet light, or through an electrical discharge such as a spark. The study also found that ozone disinfection cabinets are commercially available, taking advantage of the oxidizing effects of the gas to kill bacteria and inactivate viruses.

Although other techniques such as ultraviolet light, vaporized hydrogen peroxide, heat, and alcohol have been used to disinfect PPE, until recently, there had not been much interest in ozone disinfection. Ozone is widely used for disinfecting wastewater, purifying drinking water, sanitizing food items, and disinfecting certain types of equipment and clothing.

The researchers recommended that ozone would be a viable method for hospitals and other organizations to disinfect garments, goggles, and gloves. However, ozone disinfection may damage the elastic materials used to hold masks in place, making the treatment technique impractical on a large scale. Nonetheless, the researchers hope that by sharing information about their findings, healthcare facilities will be able to consider ozone as an option, particularly in low-resource areas of the world.