George Brown professor contributes to research on COVID-19 mask protection for health care workers

Dr. Md. Safiuddin

Do N95 respirators effectively protect health care workers from COVID-19? Are surgical masks a safe alternative? Amid the pandemic, researchers around the world have been studying the effectiveness of different masks in an effort to answer these questions. 

Dr. Md. Safiuddin, Professor of Construction Materials and Technology at George Brown’s Angelo DelZotto School of Construction Management recently published two papers looking at N95 respirators, the recommended type of mask for COVID-19 protection among health care workers. He found that N95 respirators may not provide the expected 95 per cent protection from COVID-19, although they are still considered highly effective.  

Ultrafine virus particles could pass through N95 respirators by more than 5 per cent, which may cause COVID-19 infection, and additional virus particles could enter the respiratory system due to poor mask fit and leakage. These findings suggest that N95 respirators should be supplemented with additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protective measures in health care settings. 

“Protection against COVID-19 can be enhanced when masks are used combined with other defensive measures, such as face shields and physical distancing,” said Dr. Safiuddin. 

Dr. Safiuddin’s research adds to the existing body of research that suggests surgical masks should not be worn alone by health care professionals as a protection against COVID-19. Instead, they should be combined with other PPE such as face shields, goggles, or worn on top of N95 respirators to offer more layers of protection. 

“Compared to N95 respirators, the protection efficiency of surgical masks is significantly low,” he said. “But both masks can play a vital role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 transmission from people who are infected.” 

Dr. Safiuddin’s research was published in the International Research Journal of Public and Environmental Health and the International Journal of Academic Research and Reflection