A Vernon company is adapting its products to produce a high-grade respiratory mask amid COVID-19, and it’s better for the environment.
VO2 Master typically creates wearable metabolic analyzers for athletes, but as it became clear there were shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers battling the novel coronavirus, CEO Peter O’Brien said he knew his team could help.
“It was out of necessity, really,” he said, describing the quick pivot in production. “It felt like the wrong decision to not do anything.”
O’Brien said the company has a stockpile of filters and are capable of producing 50,000 hours of respirators with materials VO2 Master already has in office.
VO2 Master was already outfitted with 3D printing capabilities and was able to adjust its design to incorporate two filter discs. The first Reusable Respirator was available for sale on Friday, April 3, and interest is growing.
“We have the ability to outfit everyone on the frontlines in B.C.,” he said, noting orders are prioritized for those most at risk.
“It’s a very comfortable mask that won’t cause people pain to wear all day, unlike the N95,” O’Brien said.
N95 masks have a 95 per cent filtration efficiency, while the masks created by VO2 Master are around 99.909 per cent. Cotton masks, he said, are better than nothing and may stop people from touching their face, but they have a filtration rate of around 60 per cent.
Plus, O’Brien said the V02 Master Reusable Respirator doesn’t budge as the masks are designed with athletes in mind.
They are also a greener option compared to the single-use counterparts.
Every piece of the mask can be washed, sanitized and reused. Only filter discs would require replacement.
“China is making millions of masks,” O’Brien said — many of which wind up in the oceans.
The replacement discs are smaller and O’Brien said approximately six filtration discs can be created for every one N95 mask.
This is not something O’Brien imagined he’d be making.
“In early January, I was thinking about it,” he said. “It was like a giant snail really far away on the road — you heard about Wuhan and the outbreak and all the while, I was thinking we could do something to help.”
“(COVID-19) is in B.C. now and we can make a difference here.”
The VO2 Master Reusable Respirator is available online at vo2master.com for $449 and provides more than 200 hours of use per filter package. Replacement filters are just $3, compared to a single-use N95 mask, which costs around $28.
Currently, the company can produce 20 masks a day, but O’Brien said in two weeks time, he’d like to create around 300 a day.
“We don’t have a huge issue with supply,” O’Brien said. “But that may change tomorrow.”