Grinshpun recalls researching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when many residents were given respirators because of mold and fungi outgrowth and its health concerns related to flooding. “When you put the respirator on your face you must make sure it fits. For instance, the nose clip was designed for a reason and must be used correctly. If not, particles penetrate through face-seal leakage and the N95 respirator may not offer the level of protection expected by its manufacturer.”
“We study the efficiency of face masks and various respirators on human subjects and breathing mannequins and in terms of penetration of particles through a conventional surgical mask, it may be as much as 50% or even greater,” he explains. “It is useless for people who want to wear this device to protect themselves. A surgeon in the operating room doesn’t want to sneeze or cough and infect the patient. A surgical mask may serve as an adequate barrier for this purpose, but what about viruses and bacteria aerosolized from the patient during surgery? If this aerosolization occurs, the surgeon and other medical staff are not well protected against it if wearing surgical masks. These masks may filter out very large droplets, but not tiny aerosolized particles.”
Virus particles often travel on water droplets and at some point the water evaporates and the particles shrink, Grinshpun says. At a smaller size, these particles can now penetrate the surgical mask.