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Have To Wear A Mask? Laser study of face masks shows which ones work best

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A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used a laser to measure how well some masks work at containing and keeping away germs. It turns out, some combinations are better than others. PHOTO: FOX 17 News Nashville

As some states and counties weigh mandating the wearing of masks in public, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used a laser to measure how well some masks work at containing and keeping away germs. It turns out, some combinations are better than others.

Scott Sanders, a professor of mechanical engineering created a mannequin which would exhale a simulated cough while wearing different types of masks. The study was able to locate weak points based on mask design, fabric, and how they are worn.

Sanders tested 5 different mask styles to see which ones were most effective. Without a mask, the mannequin exhaled a 'fog' representing escape of aerosols which traveled a distance of 3 feet.

ALSO SEE: Here are the counties in Tennessee where masks are mandated

MASKS WITH VALVES

-The valves allow aerosols to mostly escape, negating the overall use when it comes to protecting potential spread to others.

CLOTH MASK

-The mask used in the study was similar to the many cloth masks being sold which are essentially layers of cloth sewn together.

The study found the some cloth masks which have loose weaves allow for escape of aerosols both through the masks and up through the nose area since many cloth masks to not have a nose guard.

Tightly woven cloth masks fared a bit better at trapping aerosols through the mask, but the lack of a nosepiece again allowed aerosols to escape upward.

-A Flat-Fold cloth mask which included a nosepiece also allowed aerosols to escape through the mask and sides.

COMBINATION CLOTH MASKS

-The study also tested a flat-fold mask with cloth on the inside and non-woven material on the outside. A small amount of the aerosols (fog in study) escaped though the mask but was more prominent in escape from the sides of the mask.

NECK GAITER MASKS

-When it comes to the best overall mask, the neck gaiter was the choice according to the study. The mask used was cloth on the inside with a non-woven material on the outside. When tested on the mannequin, only a small amount of fog was able to escape through the material.

Sanders says based on the study, masks to choose should have a nose piece but no valve. He also notes how some mask materials will work better than others and to have a family member check your mask for any gaps.

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