Conserving its critical supplies

BHS photo: Emergency Department Nurse Celene Hirschoff, RN, places her N95 mask inside a breathable pouch to be processed for decontamination.

Brookings Health uses hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate, conserve N95 masks

BROOKINGS – To further conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brookings Health System recently started using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 respiratory masks.

“The low COVID-19 transmission rate currently within our community is encouraging,” Infection Preventionist Bunny Christie said. “By investing in new materials to leverage our existing sterilization equipment, we’re able to decontaminate N95 masks for our team members to reuse rather than throw the masks away. This can be a game changer if our COVID-19 situation changes as we approach the predicted mid-June peak for South Dakota or we experience an outbreak in our community at another time.” 

N95 masks, which worldwide have been in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, are used by healthcare workers to care for persons under investigations of COVID-19 or COVID-19 positive patients. The masks filter out at least 95 percent of airborne viral particles, reducing the wearer’s exposure to COVID-19 when caring for patients.

To decontaminate N95 masks, Brookings Health uses their STERIS V-PRO low temperature sterilization system, which was recently granted temporary emergency use clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for decontaminating N95 and N95-equivalent respirators. 

After wearing an N95 mask, a team member encapsulates and seals their mask inside a specialized, breathable pouch. Both pouches and masks are clearly labeled with team members’ names. Pouched masks are then taken to Brookings Health’s sterile processing department where they are placed up to 10 at a time inside the V-PRO chamber. Hydrogen peroxide vapor fills the chamber and penetrates the pouches, decontaminating the N95 mask surfaces in less than 30 minutes.

“Currently, we are asking our team members to reuse and reprocess their N95 respirators up to five times,” Christie said. “Masks are always returned back to the same person. For safety, we do not resuse any masks that are visibly soiled or damaged.”

More information about Brookings Health System’s local efforts to fight COVID-19 and ensure patient safety can be found online at


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