The effectiveness of masks in the prevention of spreading germs
Ava Bhura
Stratford Hall
Floor Location : J 041 H

My research tests the impact of additional layers in a mask on the spread of airborne germs or viruses, which is critical given our current situation with COVID-19. Masks protect us from catching COVID-19 and prevent spread of it to others.

At the beginning of this pandemic, we did not have much information on which types of masks were most effective. We now have much more information about masks. For example, both Health Canada and the CDC in the United States recommend the use of medical procedure masks (also referred to as surgical or disposable face masks). They also recommend that fabric masks needs to have two to three layers. It is essential that the masks we wear are effective to help keep our community safe, ensure the most vulnerable in our communities, immune-compromised people and those who live in marginalized areas, are protected and have access to good quality protective masks.

In my research, I test the effectiveness of masks on the spread of air borne germs or viruses. I did this by attempting to blow out a candle with a mask on from various distances from 0.5 to 2.0 metres, the recommended social distance. I used cotton masks with single, double and triple layers. I also tested medical procedure masks. As an extension to my research, I also tested the effectiveness of these masks when they became moist.

My experiment results were consistent with my hypothesis that masks with more layers would provide more protection against the spread of germs. There is a significant difference in the spread of airborne germs when wearing no mask compared to wearing a three layer mask or a medical procedure mask. Masks that were moist were also not as effective as when they were dry.

Information on mask efficacy can help protect people in public places (i.e. schools, malls, airports, grocery stores, etc.) by encouraging people to use masks that are the more effective and even making policies mandating the use of the most effective masks. This will help us protect our communities and especially the most vulnerable who are hardest hit because of COVID-19.