Many face masks aimed at consumers offer little protection to users or the public against minute droplets which can spread coronavirus, according to research by Dutch current affairs programme Kassa.
Researchers at Delft University of Technology developed a test using an artificial head which exhaled and inhaled as a human being, including microscopic aerosols, and found none of the six consumer masks tested were good.
Best out of the test, and offering ‘reasonable protection’ were the blue tissue disposable masks, which fit well across nose and chin, and a two layered cotton mask with a filter in between the layers.
But home made masks using old material did not have much effect, apart from keeping virus carried in sneezes or coughs at bay, Kassa said. And the government’s pattern to make your own mask did not fit properly because the sizing had been wrongly translated. That has now been rectified.
A medical mask, with a KN95 label, was rated good.
A spokesman for the health ministry told the programme that the government’s view is that a face mask is not the solution for stopping the spread of the virus.
Wearing a mask can be an additional tool to reduce the risk and now the infection rate is increasing, every little helps, particularly in places where social distancing is difficult, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile Dutch standards institute NEN has started work on developing a quality mark for reusable consumer face masks, which will be based on fabric type and ease of use.
This is not a government initiative and the quality mark will not make claims about what level of protection the masks offer.
The government has ‘strongly advised’ people to wear face masks in all public places, such as shops and museums and plans to make their use compulsory once the legal option is available.
In June, The Lancet published a review of 172 observational studies about social distancing measures, masks and eye protection. They found that a combination of the three could help to protect against transmission of three diseases caused by coronaviruses – COVID-19, SARS and MERS.
The research found that masks, specifically 12–16-layer cotton or surgical masks, could have protective benefits when used in the community, but that more research is necessary and called for ‘robust randomised trials’.