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A study with an NIU researcher shows the efficacy of a simple cloth face mask

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New research shows just how effective a simple cloth mask is in reducing airborne particles.

Professor Tariq Shamim is the chair of the Northern Illinois University Mechanical Engineering Department and contributed to the mask efficacy research published in the journal “Building and Environment.”

Using principles of fluid mechanics, the study found a “significant” number of particles fly beyond the 6-feet social distancing threshold when you cough indoors without a mask.

But, if a person uses a cloth mask -- which is less protective than respirators like an n95 -- that “contamination range” is reduced by nearly 70%.

One of the variables the study focused on was indoor ventilation. It showed that ceiling air conditioning and ventilation made much less of an impact on limiting particle flow for people sitting down indoors.

“It's basically not reducing the contamination range that much as opposed to if it was sideways,” he said. “So, for example, in an airplane.”

The research also found females had slightly lower contamination ranges than males of the same age.

Overall, Shamim said the research provides even more quantitative data and science to support just how effective masking is in reducing the transmission of airborne particles.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.