Local solution to day-to-day challenge for healthcare workers

Keeping nurses' vision clear

Sarita Patel

A plea on Twitter has led researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan to help frontline healthcare workers see clearly through their protective face shields and prevent fogging.

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. 

Assistant Professor Kevin Golovin suggested 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. 

For many frontline workers, especially those who wear corrective lenses, dealing with fogged-up glasses or face shields is 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,” says Hoiss. “Even before COVID-19.”

Golovin says there are several DIY solutions to fogging, including rubbing soap or toothpaste on the inside of goggles, facemasks or steamy bathroom mirrors. 

“We did a quick test by dipping plastics into a soap bath made with ordinary dishwashing soap and it worked well,” says Golovin. “There are no negative side effects on the plastic and the surface remains clear as long as there is no agitation.”

While dipping the protective shield in a mixture of dishwashing soap and water works, Hoiss says that was not a practical solution in a clinical setting. They needed to create a soap mixture that could be sprayed directly and was able to provide a fog-free vision for a minimum of three to four hours. 

Mazeyar Parvinzadeh Gashti, chief scientist at PRE Labs, got to work experimenting with some ideas. 

“We did a couple of tests to evaluate the performance of a diluted soap,” he explains. “We added two millilitres dishwashing soap into 100 millilitres regular tap water and then sprayed the inner side of the face shield which was left at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to be completely dried. The face shield became anti-fogging.”

Parvinzadeh says they tested three different types of soap, including commercial-grade, and several cleaning products supplied by Interior Health including a disposable soap towelette.

The towelette was a success and since there was already a supply, the idea has been implemented, and as PRE Lab CEO Brad Field says, it works.

“It is a simple, yet elegant solution,” says Field. “Identified through industry and academia collaboration in very short order, this solution improves the ability of frontline professionals to more effectively utilize their PPE and at no cost to Interior Health.”

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