Corona virus: Reprocessing method for masks apparently unusable

Corona virus: Reprocessing method for masks apparently unusable

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Reuse of respirators - Current recommendation for action is unusable

Although the Federal Government has ensured that more and more mouth-and-nose protective masks are available to protect against the transmission of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, surgeries, nursing homes and clinics have to use masks several times and prepare them accordingly.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had issued corresponding recommendations for everyday practice. Accordingly, the masks should be heated to 70 degrees Celsius and thus decontaminated. An internal paper by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) contradicts this practice. It would not be sufficient to heat the protective masks to 70 degrees.

Federal Institute: Method of decontamination unsuitable

In Germany, Covid 19 outbreaks are increasing in clinics and nursing homes. And so the fear grows to be infected where it is supposed to help. The Federal Government's recommendation that respiratory masks can be reprocessed should be more positive. But the method is not safe, as internal documents now show.

The Federal Government had followed the recommendations of the RKI and recommended that masks be re-heated to 70 degrees so that they can be used again for further use.

The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) contradicts this method. The previous method is unsuitable for decontamination, according to the internal paper, which is not yet publicly accessible. The ZDF magazine “Frontal 21” reports in its last broadcast. The internal paper was available to the journalists.

The Federal Institute accordingly points out that the new treatment method for respiratory masks does not completely kill the new Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus. The procedure is not enough "to achieve a complete inactivation of infectious virus particles on the incubated masks," according to Frontal 21, said in the paper.

Previous recommendations are maintained

So far, however, the Federal Ministry of Health has adhered to the recommendations, although the BfArM dated its opinion on April 24 and made it available internally to the Federal Ministry of Health. On April 2, 2020, however, the BfArM also wrote: “Decontamination of disposable mouth and nose protective masks e.g. Heat inactivation using dry heat at 65 ° C-70 ° C recommended for 30 minutes, other methods e.g. at higher temperatures MNS may be possible. ” This recommendation can still be read on the BfArM website.

The magazine made an inquiry to the higher federal ministry of health. However, the Ministry did not comment on request. At the beginning of April, the Federal Ministry of Health issued the recommendations for the controversial procedure. Clinics, doctor's offices and nursing homes continue to decontaminate protective masks to 70 degrees Celsius in order to use the protective masks even after repeated use, according to Frontal 21.

Heat protective masks to 90 degrees for 90 minutes

However, the procedure is not entirely wrong. The internal paper alternatively advises to heat the masks at 90 degrees for 90 minutes. This is recommended as an alternative procedure. However, no studies or test results would be available for this. These are still to be seen.

Some clinics go their own way

Dr. Andreas Farnschläder, hygiene officer for the St. Marien Hospital in Siegen, said on the show that one wanted to avoid reusing respiratory masks. "In an emergency, we would use the method that is now established in Austria that the masks are sterilized in superheated steam at 121 degrees." (sb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • ZDF Magazin Frontal 21: "Controversial reprocessing procedure for respiratory masks" (published April 28th, 2020), Frontal 21
  • BMAS / BMG: Use of protective masks in health care facilities, BfArM

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