A clunky mask may be the answer to airborne disease and N95 waste

“For us, elastomers have really been a game-changer,” Dr. Chalikonda said. “When I think of all the millions of dollars wasted on N95s and then trying to reuse them, you realize what a missed opportunity elastomers are.”

Federal health officials say they are moving as quickly as possible to produce stricter guidelines on elastomers. Maryann D’Alessandro, director of the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, said scientists are reviewing feedback from a study that distributed nearly 100,000 respirators to hospitals, nursing homes and first responders across the country. “If we can put together a toolkit to guide organizations and educate users, hopefully it can help move the needle,” she said.

Many mask entrepreneurs probably won’t last that long. Max Bock-Aronson, the co-founder of Breathe99, which makes an elastomeric respirator that Time magazine included in its 2020 list of Best Inventions, has ended operations at the company’s Minnesota plant.

He blamed the drop in sales on Covid fatigue and declining public interest in protective equipment. The company’s fortunes, he added, were doomed early on by the CDC’s mask guidelines, which prompted Amazon, Google and Facebook to limit or ban the sale of medical-grade masks to consumers. , even as PPE imports began to flood the United States again.

“The whole industry has been gutted,” Mr Bock-Aronson said. “Every time there’s a new variant we get a little boost in sales, but I haven’t taken a penny out of the business since last May,”

For now, he is focused on finding a buyer for his business while selling his inventory online. The masks cost $59 and can be sheathed in washable covers available in eight colors, including crimson, linen and royal blue.

All sales, the website apologetically points out, are final.

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