Video shows how air flows without face masks vs. various types of face coverings

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 2:37 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A video created in a lab experiment shows how air flows without a facemask and with 26 different types of face masks.

Matthew E. Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology said the video he created, “illustrates the importance of wearing a face covering and the pros and cons of various kinds of homemade face coverings in an easily understandable way.”

Staymates said he looked at 26 different face coverings, each with a different geometry, fabric or material combination, and tying mechanism.

After weeks of data collection and literally hundreds of fake coughs, Staymates said there was a clear message — “cover smart, do your part, slow the spread.”

Staymates said they learned that even the simplest face coverings, like bandanas and ski neck warmers stopped much of your cough from landing on someone else.

The experiment also showed that a good seal around the nose, chin and cheeks helps to prevent your cough from “leaking” out of the covering, according to Staymates.

Staymates warned that the experiment showed pulling your face covering below your nose “is not good — you would be surprised how much air comes out of your nose when you cough.”

Additionally, Staymates said the experiment found that fabrics with very tight and nonporous weaves actually increase air leaking out by the nose and chin.

“So, while these tight fabrics may filter droplets at a greater efficiency, they are not breathable and could possibly defeat the purpose of the face covering,” Staymates said.

“Another interesting observation was the impressive reduction in airflow velocity while talking with all the face coverings — a good thing considering that most people out in public should be talking far more than coughing,” Staymates continued.

According to Staymates, this “high-speed visualization illustrates airflow when coughing, IT DOES NOT show the movement of virus particles. As you can see, the uncovered cough expels a jet of air, whereas the covered cough stays closer to my face.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, as cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the coronavirus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.


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