Wearing A Neck Gaiter Is Worse Than No Mask At All

A Duke University study has found thin polyester spandex gaiters may be worse than going maskless during the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers used a simple method to evaluate the effectiveness of 14 types of masks which included N95 respirators, bandanas and cloth masks. The study found that popular alternatives to cloth face masks such as neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers or buffs) made of thin, stretchy material may be worse than not wearing a mask at all.

Martin Fischer, a chemist and physicist created a simple contraption that harnesses the power of a laser, a cell phone camera, a box that can be made out of cardboard and a lens. Fischer's device allowed his team to track individual particles released from a person’s mouth when they are speaking. “It’s very straightforward and doesn’t take much resources. Any research lab has these things lying around,” said Fischer.

Speakers said the same phrase into the box without a mask and then repeated the process while wearing one. Inside the device, the airborne particles passed through a sheet of light created by the laser hitting the lens and produced visible flashes that were recorded by the phone’s camera. Each face covering was tested 10 times. “Even very small particles can do this kind of light scattering,” Warren S.Warren (a professor of physics, chemistry, radiology and biomedical engineering at Duke) said. NOTE: That's his real name by the way! 
“We were able to use the scattering, and then tracking individual particles from frame to frame in the movie, to actually count the number of particles that got emitted.” The experiment shows human speech generates droplets that linger in the air for more than 8 minutes. 

The results? An N95 mask typically used by hospital workers, was the most effective. A neck gaiter, used by runners, construction works and protesters for its lightweight fabric, ranked worse than the no-mask control group.

The gaiter was described in the study as a “neck fleece” made out of a polyester spandex material. “These neck gaiters are extremely common in a lot of places because they’re very convenient to wear,” Warren said. “But the exact reason why they’re so convenient, which is that they don’t restrict air, is the reason why they’re not doing much of a job helping people,” he said. He encouraged people to assess their face coverings with another basic test. “If you can see through it when you put it up to a light and you can blow through it easily, it probably is not protecting anybody.”

Experts with the WHO have recommended that fabric masks should ideally have three layers

  • Aug 12, 2020
  • Category: Blog
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