Study Shows Face Masks Reduce Airborne Virus Travel by Half

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, face mask effectiveness has been an area of considerable debate. A study provides further proof that face masks work; researchers found that wearing face masks during coughing or speaking reduced pathogen spread by over 50% when compared to not wearing them at all.

Results were significant as airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as other viral pathogens were successfully captured and transmitted through aerosols and liquid droplets created when coughing and speaking.

Recognizing strategies to decrease transmission distance can protect individuals while helping manage responses to pandemics like COVD-19, which has caused worldwide infection, health care system overloads and damaged economies. Possible responses might include relaxing some guidelines for social distancing when masks are worn; 3 feet is preferred over 6 feet when distancing occurs with masks worn.

Utilizing diagnostic tools commonly employed to understand fluid movement through the air, the distance aerosols and droplets traveled from individuals coughing or speaking in all directions was measured while wearing various kinds of masks versus without wearing masks.

This study involved 14 individuals between the ages of 21 and 31 who each simulated coughing for five minutes while reciting phrases without, cloth mask and disposable 3-layered surgical masks.

Planar particle imaging was used to measure particle velocity. An aerodynamic particle sizer was then utilized to monitor airborne particle behavior and determine their behavior within an aerodynamic particle sizer was then utilized as well as phase doppler interferometer for measuring droplet sizes, velocity and volume flux at specific locations within a spray plume.

Researchers evaluated airborne particles as they traveled out from individuals’ mouths and measured their direction, behavior, and characteristics as they traveled outward. A cloth mask significantly reduced emissions to approximately two feet compared to four feet for speaking or coughing without using one.

Under using a surgical mask, emissions from speaking and coughing were even further reduced; approximately one half-foot.

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