A North Vancouver company is poised to become the first in Canada certified to sterilize personal protective equipment using ultraviolet light to kill COVID-19 and any other germs that pose a threat to front-line workers and patients.
Facing a “critical shortage,” Health Canada put out a notice on April 8 calling for “innovative solutions” for otherwise disposable respirators.
Jack Drummond, president of Clean Sleep Canada in Deep Cove, said the UV technology has been in Canada for years. It just needs to clear a few more government hurdles before it can be put into widespread use.
In a perfect world, there would be plenty of PPE to go around, but since the pandemic struck, masks have become exceedingly difficult to source and the prices have skyrocketed, Drummond said.
So far, Clean Sleep Canada has already been making daily trips to two private care homes on the North Shore.
“They've seen my technology. They’ve seen my third-party lab results. They're willing to utilize our services because they are having a tough time getting masks,” he said. “It's a better Plan B than having no plan at all. And right now, there doesn't seem to be a second option for them. It's either new, or they're reusing the ones that they've been using for a day or two days.”
Drummond and his technicians pick up the used PPE in a sealed bag and then place them on racks in the back of his truck where they are exposed to an array of 26 55-watt UV bulbs.
“Basically, the light is effective in breaking apart the germ building blocks – the actual DNA – of any type of virus or any living organism,” he said. “We can do about 150 to 170 masks at one time.”
Photo supplied, Clean Sleep Canada
Drummond can also hit them with ozone and heat for good measure. A treatment takes about 12 minutes. Drummond said the cost of sterilizing a mask worked out to about $1 per unit, whereas new N-95 masks are selling for about $5 apiece now.
The exact same machine is being used to treat PPE from 15 hospitals in Texas after the Baylor University Medical Centre deemed UV effective and safe. Hospitals and transit systems elsewhere in the world already use UV in addition to traditional scrubbing, he added.
“Because it kills everything. If a worker were to miss something while they're wiping, UV light hits everything in that room or on that surface,” he said.
Drummond said he has 100 per cent confidence in the UV treatment and even uses the refurbished masks himself.
“In the U.S., they're cleaning them up to 20 times and you don't lose any of the material,” he said. “They're like new out of the box.”
Drummond first saw the technology on the U.S. reality show Shark Tank and bought the rights to be the exclusive provider in Canada for cleaning mattresses in care homes and hospitals.
After filing reams of documents including research compiled elsewhere in the world, Drummond is now waiting approval from Health Canada to begin marketing the service to public health authorities and care homes.
“We're here to help,” he said.
The province of British Columbia is asking individuals and companies looking to offer support or supplies to help slow the spread of COVID-19, to use the Supplier Hub. Click here to access.