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Reuse of medical face masks in domestic and community settings without sacrificing safety: Ecological and economical lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Alcaraz, Jean-Pierre1
  • Le Coq, Laurence2
  • Pourchez, Jérémie3
  • Thomas, Dominique4
  • Chazelet, Sandrine5
  • Boudry, Isabelle6
  • Barbado, Maud6
  • Silvent, Sophie6
  • Dessale, Claire7
  • Antoine, Fabienne7
  • Guimier-Pingault, Catherine8
  • Cortella, Laurent9
  • Rouif, Sophie10
  • Bardin-Monnier, Nathalie4
  • Charvet, Augustin4
  • Dufaud, Olivier4
  • Leclerc, Lara3
  • Montigaud, Yoann3
  • Laurent, Coralie3
  • Verhoeven, Paul11, 12
  • And 15 more
  • 1 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble INP, TIMC-IMAG, 38000, Grenoble, France
  • 2 IMT Atlantique, GEPEA, CNRS UMR 6144, CS 20722, 44307, Nantes, France
  • 3 Mines Saint-Etienne, Univ Lyon, Univ Jean Monnet, INSERM, U 1059 Sainbiose, Centre CIS, 42023, Saint-Etienne, France
  • 4 Université de Lorraine, CNRS UMR 7274 LRGP, 54001, Nancy, France
  • 5 INRS Département Ingénierie des Procédés, 1 rue du Morvan, CS 60027, 54519 Vandoeuvre Cedex, France
  • 6 Clinical Investigation Center-Technological Innovation 1406 (CIC-IT), Department of Public Health, Grenoble Alpes University Hospital, 38700, Grenoble, France
  • 7 CIC Inserm 1433 Innovation Technologiques, CHRU de Nancy, Université de Lorraine, 54000, Nancy, France
  • 8 Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Grenoble Alpes, 38700, La Tronche, France
  • 9 ARC-Nucleart, CEA Grenoble, 17, rue des Martyrs, Cedex 9, 38054, Grenoble, France
  • 10 Ionisos SAS, 13 Chemin du Pontet, 69380, Civrieux-d'Azergues, France
  • 11 CIRI (Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie), Equipe GIMAP (team 15), INSERM U1111, CNRS, ENS, UCBL1, Université Jean Monnet, Université de Lyon, 42000, Saint-Etienne, France
  • 12 Service des Agents Infectieux et d’Hygiène, CHU de St-Etienne, 42000, Saint-Etienne, France
  • 13 Institut Français Textile Et Habillement, 93 Chemin des Mouilles, 69130, Ecully, France
  • 14 CMTC, Grenoble INP, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, 38000, Grenoble, France
  • 15 Arts et Métiers ParisTech, Laboratoire de Procédés et Ingénierie en Mécanique et Matériaux (PIMM), CNRS, CNAM, UMR, 8006, 75013, Paris, France
Published Article
Publication Date
Sep 29, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132364
PMID: 34600007
PMCID: PMC8491628
PubMed Central
  • Article


The need for personal protective equipment increased exponentially in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To cope with the mask shortage during springtime 2020, a French consortium was created to find ways to reuse medical and respiratory masks in healthcare departments. The consortium addressed the complex context of the balance between cleaning medical masks in a way that maintains their safety and functionality for reuse, with the environmental advantage to manage medical disposable waste despite the current mask designation as single-use by the regulatory frameworks. We report a Workflow that provides a quantitative basis to determine the safety and efficacy of a medical mask that is decontaminated for reuse. The type IIR polypropylene medical masks can be washed up to 10 times, washed 5 times and autoclaved 5 times, or washed then sterilized with radiations or ethylene oxide, without any degradation of their filtration or breathability properties. There is loss of the anti-projection properties. The Workflow rendered the medical masks to comply to the AFNOR S76-001 standard as “type 1 non-sanitory usage masks”. This qualification gives a legal status to the Workflow-treated masks and allows recommendation for the reuse of washed medical masks by the general population, with the significant public health advantage of providing better protection than cloth-tissue masks. Additionally, such a legal status provides a basis to perform a clinical trial to test the masks in real conditions, with full compliance with EN 14683 norm, for collective reuse. The rational reuse of medical mask and their end-of-life management is critical, particularly in pandemic periods when decisive turns can be taken. The reuse of masks in the general population, in industries, or in hospitals (but not for surgery) has significant advantages for the management of waste without degrading the safety of individuals wearing reused masks.

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