Study Questions Effectiveness of Neck Gaiters as Masks
Most cleaning professionals are wearing surgical masks or, if they can find them, N95 respirators, as part of their personal protective equipment for COVD-19. If your workers have chosen their own masks rather than using ones you provided, make sure they are wearing fitted masks not fleece neck gaiters as a new study published in Science Advances questions their effectiveness.
The simple study conducted by Duke University scientists in Durham, North Carolina, analyzed 14 types of face coverings, from N95s to bandanas. Using a laser, a cell phone camera, a cardboard box, and a lens, the scientists were able to measure droplet particles emitted by a masked person speaking into a box.
Not surprisingly, the investigators found that N95 respirators and surgical masks provided the most protection/containment of droplets. Cotton masks also performed quite well. However, when the person spoke through a thin, stretchy fleece neck gaiter the droplets were not constrained inside the face covering. In fact, there was a higher droplet count than when the person spoke without wearing a mask at all. That suggested that speaking through thinner masks may disperse larger droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets. Bandanas also did not test well in containing droplets.
Although this was a small study and more research needs to be done on the topic, the results can help those tasked with making decisions about suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for their workers.