Masks are the new normal for everyday life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everywhere we go we see people of all ages wearing different makes and styles of masks. While having a mask you like helps to normalize these turn of events, not all masks provide the same effectiveness. Researchers at Duke University created a test in order to evaluate the effectiveness of 14 different, commonly used masks. Keep reading and find out if your mask is at the top or bottom of the list!
How did the Experiment Work?
The experiment works by a subject wearing a face mask and speaking, sneezing, or coughing into the direction of an expanded laser beam inside a dark enclosure. The droplets that spread through the laser beam will scatter light, which is then recorded on a cell phone camera. A computer algorithm is then used to count the droplets in the video. **Keep in mind that COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets **. All fourteen masks were tested ten different times to ensure accurate results. A control group was also tested ten times without a mask so that results could be compared to no face covering at all.
Below are the mask names and photos that were tested followed by a more detailed description of each mask:
Here are the results of the masks from most effective at blocking respiratory droplets to least effective at blocking them:
Fitted N95 ( Mask 14)
Surgical (Mask 1)
Poly/Cotton (Mask 5)
PolyProp (Mask 4)
Cotton5 (Mask 13)
Cotton2 (Mask 7)
Valved N95 (Mask 2)
Cotton4 (Mask 8)
MaxAT (Mask 6)
Cotton1 (Mask 10)
Cotton3 (Mask 9)
Knitted (Mask 3)
Bandana (Mask 12)
Fleece (Mask 11)
The most effective mask was the fitted N95, unfortunately, these masks are harder to obtain. However, surgical and polycotton masks are also at the top of the list and these are being used widely among the public. One finding to note, the neck fleeces actually created more particles than no mask at all due to them breaking down larger droplets into smaller particles that could spread more easily through the fabric.
Keep in mind that wearing a mask is just one of the actions you should take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, socially distancing at 6 feet apart, sanitizing high-touch surfaces and devices, and staying home when you feel sick are all also major steps in combating the virus.
Work with those in your community to spread awareness, not droplets! The type of mask you use can mean the difference in protecting yourself and others or creating more risk. By spreading the word and ensuring everyone tries to use the mask types at the top of this list, we can potentially decrease the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe!
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Read the full study here: