Decontamination initiative started in East Lansing will lengthen life of N95 respirators

EAST LANSING—Several Lansing-area institutions are taking action to meet challenges posed by the national personal protective equipment shortage. Together, MSU Extension, the MSU College of Engineering and Sparrow Hospital developed a decontamination process to extend the life of N95 respirators so they can be reused. And Delta Dental of Michigan is linking arms with its longtime partners on the project—the first local business to do so.

“We are all in this together,” said Delta Dental of Michigan CEO Goran Jurkovic. “We are committed to the safety of our communities and this is one way we can help the dedicated and selfless health care workers in our backyard stay safe in a time of great stress and uncertainty.”

Delta Dental is providing $25,000 to support the effort. Decontamination is conducted through a dry heat process that can be replicated in most commercial ovens, allowing masks to be disinfected up to 20 times.

“The MSU Extension team went from concept to testing this system in less than five days,” said Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director. “If it weren’t for the valuable partnership with Sparrow and funders like Delta Dental, we wouldn’t be able to keep this going. We’re proud of our staff members who jumped in to make it happen, and grateful for the support.”

The project is being supported in part by Delta Dental of Michigan, but to roll it out in its entirety, more training, staff and resources are needed, which is expected to cost about $1 million.

The process has already started and decontaminated respirators will go into circulation within the next few weeks. The priority for distribution is on the areas of greatest need, including hospitals in southeast Michigan and the greater Lansing area.

“Delta Dental has been a valuable partner in promoting innovative healthcare in Mid-Michigan. We are grateful for their commitment to improving the health of the people in our communities,” said Sparrow Hospital President Alan Vierling.

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