DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Miami Valley Hospital sent their first batch of N95 masks to Battelle Labs on Thursday. The Columbus-based company was approved to use their hydrogen peroxide gas technology to decontaminate N95 masks on a large scale.

The company says they’ve sanitized 25,000 masks so far. They’ll soon add to that count with a 200 mask shipment from Miami Valley Hospital. 

“This is huge. What this really allows all of us to be able to do is multiply our supply of N95 masks so that we’re able to re-use our N95 mask after its been cleaned,” said Dr. Roberto Colon, associate chief medical officer at Miami Valley Hospital.

The masks sent off were worn by Miami Valley Hospital staff. The same masks will be returned to Miami Valley Hospital.

The PPE doesn’t just protect those who are wearing them. 

“It also allows those patients to not be exposed to some of the dangers that could go along with masks that have to be re-used,” Dr. Colon said.

The masks will undergo a three and a half hour decontamination process. They are then inspected by staff before going back to Miami Valley Hospital in about two days. Each mask can go through the process up to 20 times. 

“If a mask is damaged, if it has a lot of debris, if it has a lot of body fluid, those are things that are not going to be able to go away,” said Dr. Colon.  

While useful, Battelle Labs’ system does not solve the PPE shortage problem. 

“About 10 percent of the masks, we expect in most of their deliveries, to not be able to make it through the process because of quality control so we’re hoping that it is lower than that number,” Dr. Colon said.

The masks are not one-size-fits-all. That complicates the shortage issues as some sizes are increasingly difficult to find.

For now, Dr. Colon is grateful for this technology.

“The ability to do this is really a game changer for everybody,” Dr. Colon said.

Battelle Labs says new techs are being trained to expand operations. Shipments of masks are coming in from hospitals around the country.  They say police, firefighters and nursing homes are sending their masks in as well.