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Can UV light sterilize face masks for healthcare workers?

A face mask is seen. March 25, 2020. (WLUK)
A face mask is seen. March 25, 2020. (WLUK)
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GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Shortages of personal protective equipment continue to concern hospital leaders, and has even led to protests across the country.

But Lanny Viegut, owner and CEO of Carnivore Meat Company, has an idea.

"We’ve donated the use of an ultraviolet sterilization machine to help our community sterilize masks," he told FOX 11.

Usually the Green Bay pet food company uses its UV-light to sterilize its own equipment for food safety.

But the machine can be re-purposed to kill bacteria on personal protective equipment, like face masks.

"The masks will actually go onto the conveyor, through the chamber, and the ultraviolet light will actually kill all the bacteria and potential virus that will be on the mask," he explained.

But it’s not clear if hospitals are ready to jump on board just yet.

We reached out to St. Vincent and St. Mary’s hospitals, which had the following statement.

From Prevea Health and HSHS Eastern Wisconsin hospitals...

Prevea Health and its HSHS Eastern Wisconsin hospital partners are aware of the efforts regarding the use of ultraviolet sterilization for PPE. While we do not have anything to share regarding this latest development, we applaud the support and innovative efforts for health care organizations during this time. The support that has been generated by our local communities and businesses during this pandemic has been nothing short of incredible.

A spokesperson for Bellin Hospital gave FOX 11 this statement, responding to Viegut's efforts:

We are aware and appreciative of this offer. Bellin Health continues to explore our options for obtaining and sterilizing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but at this time we have nothing to share related to this particular company or process.

Meanwhile, Viegut hopes to have a national impact. He says the UV-light sterilizer can be moved across the country for those who need it.

"Maybe it’s in Seattle. Maybe it’s even in New York," he said. "They can re-purpose that machine in the short term to help sterilize masks and reduce the demand on new masks overall."

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But those hopes are on hold until area hospitals can confirm or deny whether the UV-light actually works.

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