Study finds N95 masks are most effective in blocking aerosols as cloth masks release fibre into the air

A new study has revealed that N95 masks and common surgical masks were able to cut down most of the aerosolized particles emitted during breathing, talking and coughing.

The study published in the Scientific Reports analysed the difference between surgical/professionally created masks and homemade cloth masks. It was found that homemade face cloth masks release a fair amount fibre into the air.

The study was carried out at the University of California and published on Medical Xpress.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are now essential. With still no vaccine or confirmed medication, precaution is most necessary. This involves isolating, social distancing, repeated hand-washing or sanitizing, and proper mask covers for the face.

Many countries have made it mandatory to use a face mask in public spaces. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US and World Health Organization all suggest that masks are most essential in preventions against COVID.

A mask’s job is to not only prevent aerosols from infected people to reach you, but also stops asymptomatic people from transmitting the virus to others. Multiple tests have been carried out to test the effectiveness of various masks since the pandemic began.

Without a mask, 10 times more particles were released than regular breathing. Forced coughing results were highly variable but one number stood out. A volunteer who was called “superemitter” produced more than 100 times normal particles than anybody else coughing.

With the subsequent step, one where the faces were covered with surgical and N-95 masks, almost 90% less particles were blocked as compared to no mask. The face covers were successful in limiting the amount of particles even from the superemitter.

The homemade cotton masks, however, released more than not wearing a mask. These particles weren’t necessarily coming out the mouth, but very tiny fibres of the mask itself that were being released in the air. Whether or not they blocked particles exhaled by the volunteers remains unclear. But larger aerosols were definitely lessened.