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UBCO collaboration helps frontline workers see clearly during long hours at work

Fogged up protective face shields were proving to be problematic

  • May. 21, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Frontline healthcare workers are seeing clearly through their protective face shields thanks to a tweet for help, a response from a researcher and a collaboration with a safety products manufacturing company.

A few weeks ago, UBC School of Nursing Professor Sally Thorne tweeted that nurses, health care professionals and frontline workers were looking for an anti-fogging solution for glasses, goggles and visors for people who need to wear a tight-fitting mask.

UBC Okanagan researcher Kevin Golovin replied to Thorne, suggesting that his team at the Okanagan Polymer Engineering Research and Applications Lab might be able to help. Golovin conducts research on specific material coatings, investigating ice-repellent surfaces and water-resistant textiles. He reached out to colleagues at Kelowna-based PRE Labs—a company that manufactures protective products including face shields. This started the ball rolling, with a number of people offering to help.

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For many frontline workers, especially those who wear corrective lenses, dealing with fogged-up glasses or face shields was part of the daily routine, explains Sybil Hoiss, a clinical nurse specialist with Interior Health.

“Personal protective equipment (PPE) fogging up has been a nuisance for staff for many years,” said Hoiss. “Even before COVID-19.”

But for anyone working on the frontlines during COVID-19, the shifts were long and people were wearing their PPE for extended hours.

Golovin said there are a number of DIY solutions to fogging, including rubbing soap or toothpaste on the inside of goggles, facemasks or steamy bathroom mirrors. For a test, he reached for a substance the hospital had on hand. Soap.

“We did a quick test by dipping plastics into a soap bath made with ordinary dishwashing soap and it worked well,” said Golovin.

“There are no negative side effects on the plastic and the surface remains clear as long as there is no agitation.”

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