Medical mask versus cotton mask for preventing respiratory droplet transmission in micro environments

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Sep 15:735:139510. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139510. Epub 2020 May 18.


The objective of this study was to investigate whether cotton mask worn by respiratory infection person could suppress respiratory droplet levels compared to medical mask. We recruited adult volunteers with confirmed influenza and suspected cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to wear medical masks and self-designed triple-layer cotton masks in a regular bedroom and a car with air conditioning. Four 1-hour repeated measurements (two measurements for bedroom the others for car) of particles with a size range of 20-1000 nm measured by number concentrations (NC0.02-1), temperature and relatively humidity, and cough/sneeze counts per hour were conducted for each volunteer. The paired t-tests were used for within-group comparisons in a bedroom and in a car. The results showed that there was no significant difference in NC0.02-1 or cough/sneeze counts between volunteers with medical masks and cotton masks in a bedroom or a car. We concluded that the cotton mask could be a potential substitute for medical mask for respiratory infection person in microenvironment with air conditioning. Healthy people may daily use cotton mask in the community since cotton mask is washable and reusable.

Keywords: Cotton mask; Medical mask; Micro environment; Respiratory droplet; Transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Communicable Disease Control / instrumentation*
  • Confined Spaces*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masks*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Aerosols