Quantitative Method for Comparative Assessment of Particle Filtration Efficiency of Fabric Masks as Alternatives to Standard Surgical Masks for PPE
Mueller, Amy V et al.
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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cloth masks are being used to control the spread of virus, but the efficacy of these loose-fitting masks is not well known. Here, tools and methods typically used to assess tight-fitting respirators were modified to quantify the efficacy of community- and commercially-produced fabric masks as PPE. Two particle counters concurrently sample ambient air and air inside the masks; mask performance is evaluated by mean particle removal efficiency and statistical variability when worn as designed and with a nylon overlayer, to independently assess fit and material. Worn as designed both commercial surgical masks and cloth masks had widely varying effectiveness (53-75% and 28-90% filtration efficiency, respectively). Most surgical-style masks improved with the nylon overlayer, indicating poor fit. This rapid testing method uses widely available hardware, requires only a few calculations from collected data, and provides both a holistic and aspect-wise evaluation of mask performance.