With the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped our world, the Canadian Medical Foundation’s priority focus is the prevention of infectious diseases through projects that address gaps in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) efforts.
A June 1, 2020, Lancet meta-analysis of 13 studies showed that wearing eye protection, like face shields, resulted in a 78% reduction in infection with COVID-19, SARS or MERS. However, due to the global shortage of disposable face shields, many sub-standard face shield products are flooding the market, single-use face shields are being re-used off label, and face shields are not being properly decontaminated before re-use. This poses a health and safety risk to healthcare workers.
A sustainable solution is urgently needed.
The CDC’s September 15, 2020 guidance on reprocessing disposable face shields states to “carefully avoid the foam cushion and elastic strap as they may not be tolerant to disinfectants.” This means that the skin contacting foam cushion and elastic strap are not typically decontaminated before reuse.
Reusable face shields need to be fully decontaminated before reuse to ensure that the risk of infection is minimized, with a decontamination protocol that includes both cleaning and disinfection. No decontamination kits to properly clean and disinfect reusable face shields are currently marketed in Canada. The currently available decontamination protocols for reusable face shields often fail to include the cleaning step and usually recommend using toxic or flammable chemical disinfection agents.
Before a reusable face shield can be brought to market, the process for cleaning and disinfection must go through a complete and expensive validation process to prove that it is effective. However, due to recent shortages, Health Canada has allowed – on a temporary basis – face shields to be exempt from validation testing.
Dr. Julielynn Wong is board-certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, public health and general preventive medicine, and is the founder of 3D4MD, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide regulatory-compliant, 3D printable healthcare supplies to remote communities.
3D4MD’s analysis has shown that none of the face shields marketed in Canada as “100% reusable” have undergone the necessary and costly quality standards testing by independent, accredited laboratories to validate that these devices can be properly cleaned, disinfected, and safely reused.
The 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield and Decontamination Kit has been designed to prevent infection of frontline healthcare workers in community and institutional settings. The Decontamination Kit for the 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield uses an environmentally safe, non-toxic, rapid action (1 minute), single-agent cleaner and COVID-19 disinfectant authorized by Health Canada.
The Canadian Medical Foundation has committed to support Dr. Wong in obtaining regulatory standards certification testing by an accredited, independent laboratory to demonstrate that the 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield can be properly cleaned and disinfected with the 3D4MD Face Shield Decontamination Kit in accordance with Health Canada regulatory standards.
The proper use of face shields is an overlooked and neglected topic in COVID-19 prevention. Without safe, reusable personal protective equipment, frontline healthcare workers will be forced to continue to reuse sub-standard, untested face shields made of cheap, low-grade plastic with a limited lifespan. This significantly increases their infection risk for COVID-19, exposes staff to toxic chemical disinfectants, utilizes more healthcare resources, raises healthcare delivery costs, and increases the amount of medical waste in landfills and oceans.
Working together, supporting each other, we can stop the spread of COVID-19.