With Victorians in Stage 3 lockdown being encouraged to wear face masks in public spaces, people around the country are recognising that wearing a mask while travelling – whether it be on public transport or on a plane – might not be a bad idea.
But not all masks are created equal.
News Corp’s national health correspondent Sue Dunlevy reported today on new research that shows the best mask to protect from COVID-19 (you can read more on this below).
The result is the World Health Organisation now has these recommendations for face masks.
· Masks should have at least three layers of fabric.
· The inner layer that touches the face should be made of absorbent material, like cotton.
· The middle layer should be made of a non-woven material like polypropylene.
· The outer layer should be made of a non-absorbent material like polyester or a polyester blend.
· The edges of the mask must fit closely to the face and not shift when speaking.
· Avoid face masks made from stretchy fabric or gauze or silk they are only 3 per cent efficient at filtering droplets.
The good news is there’s an Aussie organisation making masks that meets these criteria.
The Social Studio is a not-for-profit social enterprises that is an RMIT-accredited school, an ethical production studio, and a store which stocks their own sustainable label. Each one of these different initiatives exists to empower Australia’s migrant and refugee youth through education and employment.
In the wake of COVID-19 The Social Studio has redirected their manufacturing efforts towards producing scrubs for frontline healthcare workers and upcycled, reusable face masks for the community, at cost price.
Their masks tick the new criteria outlined by WHO and are some of the cheapest around at $12 per mask.
Because of this they sell like hot cakes, but they are restocking daily at around 9am.
NEW RESEARCH ON THE MOST EFFECTIVE MASKS
Masks made from quilted fabric and commercial cone shaped masks have been found to provide the best protection from coronavirus.
The new study has found using a folded handkerchief or single layer bandana does not work well.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University used lasers to visualise the spread of droplets from simulated coughing and sneezing and tested the effectiveness of various masks in a study published in the journal Physics of Fluids.
They found droplets from a cough could travel more than twice as far (3.6 metres) as the current 1.5 metre social distancing guidelines used by the government and found the infectious droplets remained suspended in the air for up to three minutes.
“These observations, in combination with other recent studies, suggest that current social-distancing guidelines may need to be updated to account for the aerosol-based transmission of pathogens,” the researchers said.
The study found a folded handkerchief mask made following the instructions recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General was not effective.
There was leakage of droplets through the mask material and also from the top edge of the mask, where there were gaps between the nose and the cloth.
A single-layer bandana-style covering was even worse at controlling droplets from coughs and sneezes.
However, well-fitted homemade masks made with multiple layers of quilting fabric were found to be the most effective in reducing droplet spread.
Droplets from a cough travelled only 6.35 centimetres when the mannequin wore this type of mask.
Commercial cone shaped masks were also good at containing droplets which travelled just 20 centimetres when used by the mannequin in the study.
MAKE SURE YOU KEEP YOUR MASK CLEAN
Re-usable masks should be washed frequently in warm hot water over 60°C, with soap or laundry detergent, alternatively wash using room temperature water then boil the mask for one minute.
When removing the mask do so without touching the front of the mask, do not touch the eyes or mouth after mask removal.
Either discard the mask or place it in a sealable bag where it is kept until it can be washed and cleaned. Perform hand hygiene immediately afterwards, the WHO advises.
Masks alone will not stop the spread of coronavirus so you must also wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing.