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Sci Rep ; 11(1): 12110, 2021 06 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1517640


Wearing surgical masks or other similar face coverings can reduce the emission of expiratory particles produced via breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing. Although it is well established that some fraction of the expiratory airflow leaks around the edges of the mask, it is unclear how these leakage airflows affect the overall efficiency with which masks block emission of expiratory aerosol particles. Here, we show experimentally that the aerosol particle concentrations in the leakage airflows around a surgical mask are reduced compared to no mask wearing, with the magnitude of reduction dependent on the direction of escape (out the top, the sides, or the bottom). Because the actual leakage flowrate in each direction is difficult to measure, we use a Monte Carlo approach to estimate flow-corrected particle emission rates for particles having diameters in the range 0.5-20 µm. in all orientations. From these, we derive a flow-weighted overall number-based particle removal efficiency for the mask. The overall mask efficiency, accounting both for air that passes through the mask and for leakage flows, is reduced compared to the through-mask filtration efficiency, from 93 to 70% for talking, but from only 94-90% for coughing. These results demonstrate that leakage flows due to imperfect sealing do decrease mask efficiencies for reducing emission of expiratory particles, but even with such leakage surgical masks provide substantial control.

Aerosols , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Cough , Exhalation , Filtration , Masks , Virus Diseases/prevention & control , Adolescent , Adult , COVID-19/prevention & control , Equipment Failure , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Monte Carlo Method , Particle Size , Probability , Respiration , Sneezing , Young Adult
Sci Rep ; 10(1): 15665, 2020 09 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-797901


The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in demand for facemasks to protect against disease transmission. In response to shortages, many public health authorities have recommended homemade masks as acceptable alternatives to surgical masks and N95 respirators. Although mask wearing is intended, in part, to protect others from exhaled, virus-containing particles, few studies have examined particle emission by mask-wearers into the surrounding air. Here, we measured outward emissions of micron-scale aerosol particles by healthy humans performing various expiratory activities while wearing different types of medical-grade or homemade masks. Both surgical masks and unvented KN95 respirators, even without fit-testing, reduce the outward particle emission rates by 90% and 74% on average during speaking and coughing, respectively, compared to wearing no mask, corroborating their effectiveness at reducing outward emission. These masks similarly decreased the outward particle emission of a coughing superemitter, who for unclear reasons emitted up to two orders of magnitude more expiratory particles via coughing than average. In contrast, shedding of non-expiratory micron-scale particulates from friable cellulosic fibers in homemade cotton-fabric masks confounded explicit determination of their efficacy at reducing expiratory particle emission. Audio analysis of the speech and coughing intensity confirmed that people speak more loudly, but do not cough more loudly, when wearing a mask. Further work is needed to establish the efficacy of cloth masks at blocking expiratory particles for speech and coughing at varied intensity and to assess whether virus-contaminated fabrics can generate aerosolized fomites, but the results strongly corroborate the efficacy of medical-grade masks and highlight the importance of regular washing of homemade masks.

Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Coronavirus Infections/transmission , Masks , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/transmission , Primary Prevention/methods , Respiratory Protective Devices , Adolescent , Adult , Aerosols , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Cough/virology , Exhalation , Female , Filtration/instrumentation , Humans , Inhalation Exposure , Male , Middle Aged , Primary Prevention/instrumentation , SARS-CoV-2 , Young Adult