Making Masks at Home – What You Need to Know About How to Reduce the Transmission of Coronavirus
By Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat
The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to use cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 has generated numerous how-to articles and videos. As academics who focus on personal protective equipment (PPE) research and development, we are concerned about the lack of information about two critical features of home mask design: fit and fabric selection.
The Reality of Particle Size
Virus particles are tiny, ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 micron. A size 40 micron particle is visible with the naked eye — anything smaller, you need specialized equipment to see it.
Protective masks like the N95 are designed to prevent virus particles from flowing in and out of the mask. Due to current shortages, N95 masks should be reserved for COVID-19 health care workers only.
Better Than Nothing
Homemade masks cannot block or filter the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because it can easily flow through every common material people have at home. However, a homemade mask is still better than none at all. If made correctly, a homemade mask can reduce the transmission of the virus from the wearer to others by impeding large droplets and spray produced by a cough or sneeze. It can also reduce the transmission of the virus from others to the wearer.
Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth. When measuring for a mask pattern, make sure it extends from the top of the nose — as close as possible to the eyes without obstructing sight — to under the chin. Masks should cover the face side-to-side, well past the opening of the mouth.
When developing prototypes, check around all edges of the mask for gaps. If you see any, close them up by pinching the fabric together, and stitch or tape or staple edges together to create a pleat or dart. A thin metal wire or paper clip placed along the top edge of the mask can stabilize and shape it along the bridge of the nose and cheekbone for a closer fit.
Masks should stay securely in position and fit comfortably with ties or elastic ear loops. If the mask is too tight or loose, the wearer may continuously adjust the mask forgetting the admonition — "Don't touch your face!"
The ties and loops should also be the mechanism for taking off the mask, as the front of the mask might be contaminated.
A properly fitting mask. Arlys Dayton / CC BY
People have varying access to different fabrics at home. Masks should incorporate fabrics that:
- Reduce virus transmission to and from the nose and mouth
- Wrap around the face and are comfortable next to the skin
- Are easy to wash and sanitize.
Fabric is comprised of four variables that must be considered for mask making: fiber, yarn, structure and finish. Change a variable — and mask performance changes.
Variables that make up a fabric. Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat / CC BY
Fibers are the smallest component of a fabric. They cannot be identified by sight or touch. Look for a fiber content label on the products or fabrics you might use for your mask. Alternately, a "burn test" can be used as a crude method to determine if a fabric is a natural fiber, human-made fiber, or a blend of natural and man made fibers. If you choose this method be careful.
There are three important fiber characteristics to consider for mask making. The first is micron size — the diameter of a fiber. The SARS-CoV-2 virus particle is 0.1 to 0.3 micron, so small-sized fibers allow for more compact fabric structures to reduce transmission. The second is how the fiber feels next to skin — this will indicate how comfortable a mask may feel next to your face. The third is moisture regain — how well the fiber absorbs moisture. A higher number means more absorbency; low regain gives a sense of how well the fiber might repel moisture.
Generic fiber characteristics and mask considerations. Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat / CC BY
Fibers are twisted together to form yarns. Yarns vary in size affecting fabric thickness and breathability. "Yarn count" is the number of yarns in a 1-inch square of woven fabric. A high yarn count fabric indicates a dense fabric with droplet blocking potential. Yarns with different properties can be blended to combine characteristics.
Yarns are then structured into the physical fabric.
Types of fabric. Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat / CC BY
Structures and mask considerations. Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat / CC BY
Performance finishes, like water repellency and antimicrobials, are not visible but could be helpful. Detect water repellency or moisture wicking by using an eye dropper to place a drop of water on a fabric to see how it moves across the fabric. Aesthetic finishes like graphics and batik are not so useful.
Put It All Together
There are many fabric variables to reckon with for a homemade mask. Consider building a three-layer system.
Three-layer mask system considerations. Susan L. Sokolowski and Karen L. LaBat / CC BY
This three-layer system includes a space between the inner and outer layers for a removable middle layer. A replaceable "filter" is inserted in that space. If one fabric layer is too thin, add additional layers for protection.
Homemade masks will not filter the SARS-CoV-2, however, masks may prevent droplets and spray from transmitting between individuals. When wearing a mask, remember to continue social distancing, wash hands frequently and wipe down surfaces and packages.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.