University of Georgia Study Finds Neck Gaiters As Good As Masks in Reducing Droplet Spread

  • Testing Finds Multi-Layer Gaiters Can Block More Than 95% of Respiratory Droplets
  • Face-Covering Efficacy Driven More by Fabric Layers Than Form Factor

 

ATHENS, Ga., Sept. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- University of Georgia researchers have demonstrated that neck gaiters can provide a level of protection equivalent to masks when used as a face-covering.

Researchers from the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences sought to test the effectiveness of various face masks and gaiters in reducing the disbursement of respiratory droplets during speech.

The gaiters were compared to no mask at all, as well as to multiple two-layer, washable, breathable cloth masks (as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent the spread of COVID-19).

Materials tested consisted of the following:

  • Four of the top-selling, two-layer face masks offered on Amazon.com
    • To qualify, masks had to receive no less than 2,000 consumer reviews with an average rating in excess of 4.
    • Masks were made of various materials (cotton and spandex)
  • Five of the top-selling, single-layer gaiters offered on Amazon.com
    • To qualify, gaiters had to receive no less than 4,000 consumer reviews with an average rating in excess of 4.
    • Gaiters were made of various materials (polyester, spandex and nylon)
  • Three multi-layer gaiters offered on Mission.com
    • Gaiters were 2 and 3 layers, made of polyester and spandex

Study results were as follows:

  • Single-layer gaiters provided a 77% average reduction in respiratory droplets compared to wearing no face covering at all.
  • Two-layer masks provided an 81% average reduction in respiratory droplets compared to wearing no face covering at all.
  • Multi-layer gaiters provided a 96% average reduction in respiratory droplets compared to wearing no face covering at all.
  • The results are consistent with results from a recent Virginia Tech study which showed layered neck gaiters provided similar performance to the cloth masks when tested on mannequins.

The UGA study mirrored the protocol recently developed by Duke University and published by Science Advances: "Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech," with additional enhancements for more accurate results.

Subjects spoke "Stay Healthy People" five times into each of the materials for consistency, and droplets were monitored over a 40-second period. A computer algorithm calculated the number of remaining respiratory droplets over time to determine the efficacy of each material's ability to reduce respiratory droplets from the baseline of "no mask." Each material was tested three times to increase accuracy and statistical significance.

Results were calculated using the droplet levels at both the 30-second and 40-second marks. Enhancements to the original study were also put in place. Instead of using a HEPA-filter, UGA scientists used a class 1000 clean room as well as a 3D printed box to dramatically diminish existing particles in the air, thereby reducing the amount of "noise" or unwanted particles from appearing in the results. MISSION, a leading provider of textile accessories, provided the funding necessary to conduct the study.

Leading the study was Suraj Sharma, Professor of Polymer, Fiber and Textiles Sciences in the FACS Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, with his master's student, Mazbah Uddin, and Ph.D. student, Anuradhi Liyanapathiranage.

Co-Lead on the study was Tho Nguyen, Associate Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, with his Ph.D. students, Hoang Luong and Minh Pham.

"Per CDC guidelines, using face covers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance," Sharma said. "However, recent media reports have questioned the effectiveness of gaiters as face covers. We hope this study will provide valuable evidence and insight to help answer those questions. In sum, the level of protection provided by a face covering appears to be substantially driven by the number and quality of layers of material and not whether it's in the form of a gaiter or a mask."

About the University of Georgia Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors
The department of textiles, merchandising and interiors is part of the University of Georgia's College of Family and Consumer Sciences. The department's expertise ranges from merchandising and interior design to polymer, fiber, and textile science. It offers both masters of science and doctor of philosophy degrees. Students in the Ph.D. program may pursue Polymer, Fiber, and Textile Sciences or Emphasis in International Merchandising. Students in the M.S. program may pursue a focus in historic/cultural aspects of dress and textiles, merchandising, interiors, or polymer, fiber and textile science. Students conduct scholarly research and develop skills needed for industry, business, government and academia. The Ph.D. and M.S. programs offer flexibility in selecting coursework that enables a student to meet a variety of career goals. All graduate students complete a doctoral dissertation or master's thesis. Department also offers a non-thesis M.S. program for those who wants to pursue industrial career only. Recent graduates of the Ph.D. and M.S. programs hold a variety of positions in industry, academia and museums. For more information go to https://www.fcs.uga.edu/tmi

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SOURCE University of Georgia

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