The ‘face mask’ you shouldn’t wear
Researchers at Duke University in Kentucky have conducted a study of 14 different types of face masks to see which offered the best protection and found that one option was actually worse than not wearing anything.
They examined surgical, N95, cotton, and polypropylene masks, as well as neck fleeces and bandanas, testing a person speaking 10 times while wearing each mask and compared to a ‘control trial’ of not wearing any mask.
In comparison to the ‘control trial’, most of the options reduced the number of respiratory droplets transmitted, adding to the body of research that shows masks are important to limit the spread of coronavirus, the researchers said. Polypropylene masks marked a droplet count that was close to the numbers counted for surgical and N95 masks which had the lowest number of droplets.
The neck fleece and bandanas, however, marked high counts of respiratory droplets, showing that these alternative face coverings offer little protection, according to the study.
In fact, neck fleece increased the number of respiratory droplets by creating a number of smaller droplets – resulting in more droplets than not wearing masks at all.
The study stated that since smaller droplets stay in the air longer than larger droplets, neck fleece may actually be “counterproductive”.
“We were extremely surprised to find that the number of particles measured with the fleece actually exceeded the number of particles measured without wearing any mask,” Martin Fischer, one of the study’s authors, told CNN. “We want to emphasise that we really encourage people to wear masks, but we want them to wear masks that actually work.”