Giving Compass’ Take:
• At Futurity, Mikayla Mace summarizes a recent study on the effectiveness of different face mask materials over different levels of exposure.
• How can you spread awareness towards the importance of wearing a face mask in all public settings? What can we do to make effective face mask material more accessible for those in marginalized communities?
In a study in the Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers assessed the ability of a variety of nontraditional mask materials to protect a person from infection after 30 seconds and after 20 minutes of exposure in a highly contaminated environment.
When the researchers compared wearing masks to wearing no protection during 20-minute and 30-second exposures to the virus, they found that infection risks were reduced by 24-94% or by 44-99% depending on the mask and exposure duration. Risk reduction decreased as exposure duration increased, they found.
“N99 masks, which are even more efficient at filtering airborne particles than N95 masks, are obviously one of the best options for blocking the virus, as they can reduce average risk by 94-99% for 20-minute and 30-second exposures, but they can be hard to come by, and there are ethical considerations such as leaving those available for medical professionals,” says lead author Amanda Wilson, an environmental health sciences doctoral candidate in the community, environment, and policy department in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.
The next best options, according to the research, are N95 and surgical masks and, perhaps surprisingly, vacuum cleaner filters, which can be inserted into filter pockets in cloth masks. The vacuum filters reduced infection risk by 83% for a 30-second exposure and 58% for a 20-minute exposure.
“That doesn’t mean take your mask off after 20 minutes,” Wilson says, “but it does mean that a mask can’t reduce your risk to zero. Don’t go to a bar for four hours and think you’re risk free because you’re wearing a mask. Stay home as much as possible, wash your hands often, wear a mask when you’re out, and don’t touch your face.”
Read the full article about the effectiveness of face mask material by Mikayla Mace at Futurity.
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