Do-it-yourself masks: How effective are they?

DIY: Ana Mari Atoigue made her own mask out of a colorful folded handkerchief and rubber bands using instructions she found on the internet. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

As medical-grade personal protective equipment such as face masks are in high demand and low supply, many have opted to make their own.

But questions abound on whether these DIY masks are safe.

A Cambridge University study published online in 2010 found that while surgical masks can capture about 90% of virus-sized particles, masks made from vacuum cleaner bags can capture about 85% and masks constructed from tea towels can capture more than 70%.

A mask made with a cotton mix could still be of use, capturing about 70% of virus-sized particles, according to the study.

Many DIY face-mask patterns and tutorials can be found online.

Guam resident Ana Mari Atoigue made her own mask out of a colorful folded handkerchief and rubber bands using instructions she found on the internet. Atoigue said she added a folded paper towel inside that she could easily swap out.

Still, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to wear masks when experiencing symptoms, and not necessarily when healthy.

The Cambridge study supports the idea that face masks do more to protect others than oneself.

"There is some evidence to support the wearing of masks or respirators during illness to protect others, and public health emphasis on mask wearing during illness may help to reduce influenza virus transmission," the study states. "There are fewer data to support the use of masks or respirators to prevent becoming infected."

The CDC also only recommends the N95 mask as a way to safely prevent the inhaling of COVID-19 virus particles.

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