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New protocol offers low-cost, user-friendly solution for disinfecting PPE
GARDEN CITY, Idaho (May 12, 2020) — Shortages of personal protective equipment have forced medical workers, caregivers, and others on the COVID-19 frontline to reuse fragile, disposable masks and other single-use PPE. In response, two Idahoans have developed a simple, portable, inexpensive sterilization protocol just about anyone anywhere can use to help keep their protective gear clean and functional.
The sub-$100 solution, dubbed the Simple Ozone Sterilizer, is comprised of three readily available components: a small, battery-powered, 30-mg/hour ozone generator, a charging device, and a 7-gallon (27-liter) sealable plastic storage bin.
Ozone fumigation is routinely used to sanitize airplane, bus, and rental car interiors and hotel rooms, because the gas can reach poorly accessible spaces other methods like hydrogen peroxide vapors, laser light, and UV radiation cannot. Some hospitals add it to their laundry, because ozone is known to kill C. diff, MRSA, staph, and other viruses, bacteria, and germs on contact.
Adequate ozone generators and chargers costing as little as $80 are plentiful online at retail websites like Amazon and Alibaba, and plastic storage bins are ubiquitous and can cost $10 or less.
Following the SOS protocol, users place the masks and ozone generator inside the bin, starting the latter before closing the lid. Within seven minutes of startup, the system produces an ozone concentration of 18 ppm — enough to kill most pathogens. Many ozone generators will maintain that level for 20-30 minutes and then turn off automatically.
Users should conduct the procedure in a well-ventilated area to minimize their exposure to ozone, because the gas is not safe in high concentrations for animals or humans. In addition, the protocol’s designers recommend removing the masks from the bin and letting them sit out in the open air for another 30 minutes to allow residual ozone to escape. However, the process does not produce harmful residues since residual ozone always converts back to oxygen within a few minutes.
The system does not need to be airtight to work, as long the ozone doesn’t escape at a rate that would reduce the concentration significantly. According to the new protocol’s designers, theoretically, a shoebox should work, although a 7-gallon plastic bin with a lid will better ensure success.
“This method is exceptionally simple, incredibly inexpensive, and could be a real game changer in terms of saving lives,” John Schiff, one of the protocol’s developers, said. “It only takes an hour compared to 24 hours like some other solutions, allowing for multiple cycles in one day. It doesn’t require water, and it can be deployed anywhere in the world — even in small, remote villages — as long as you have a cell phone charger.”
Schiff and his partners have released the protocol into the public domain as a public service under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Complete details for the protocol are available at SimpleOzone.com.
The idea was Schiff’s brainchild. He owns Obtainium Science & Industry, a laboratory, medical, and industrial surplus online reseller based in Garden City, Idaho, and his wife is a healthcare worker. Looking to validate the concept, Schiff approached Reuseum Educational Inc., a nonprofit that provides STEM education opportunities for underprivileged and underserved children and runs a retail store and recycling operation.
To confirm the efficacy of the protocol, Schiff and the Reuseum turned to Uwe Reischl, a medical doctor, occupational medicine expert with a Ph.D. in public health, and professor at Boise State University in the College of Health Sciences, Dept. of Community and Environmental Health.
During testing, Reischl observed that exposure to ozone may cause some of the rubber straps on facemasks to fail. He advises Simple Ozone Sterilizer users to be prepared to replace straps with shoestrings, nylon cord, cotton string, or other suitable alternatives.
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