The aerosol generated by playing wind instruments is less than that produced by vocalization

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The aerosol generated by playing wind instruments and brass instruments is less than that produced during vocalization (speaking and singing) and is no different from a person’s breathing, according to new research.

The results, published online in the journal Aerosol science and technology, could be crucial in developing a roadmap to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the performing arts, which have been severely curtailed since the start of the pandemic.

The research project, known as PERFORM (ParticulatE Respiratory Matter to InForm Guidance for the Safe Distancing of PerfOrmeRs in a COVID-19 PandeMic), was supported by Public Health England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UKRI and was carried out by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Royal Brompton Hospital.

The study looked at the amount of aerosols and droplets generated when playing wind and brass instruments compared to breathing and vocalization (speaking and singing). The work was performed in an environment without background aerosol particles to complicate the interpretation of the measures, with nine musicians playing 13 wind and brass instruments.

The research team found that the aerosol (wind instruments and brass instruments is similar to that produced by breathing, based on the measurements of several musicians playing the flute and piccolo as well as measures on a range of instruments including clarinet, trumpet, trombone and tuba. Aerosol concentrations generated during instrument play were lower than those associated with high volume vocalization.

Large droplets (> 20 m in diameter) were not observed while playing an instrument but were observed during singing and coughing. Together, the results indicate that playing wind instruments and brass generates less aerosol than vocalizing at high volume levels.

The aerosol emission concentrations of musicians during breathing and vocalization were consistent with the results of a study conducted last year on a large group of professional singers. No difference was found between the aerosol concentrations generated by professional and amateur performers when breathing or vocalizing, suggesting that aerosol generation is consistent between amateur and professional singers, regardless their vocal training.

Our study found that playing wind instruments and brass generates less aerosol than vocalization, which could have important policy implications in a roadmap to lift COVID-19 restrictions, as many of the arts activities of the scene has been and continues to be severely restricted. “

Dr BrYan Bzdek, study correspondent author and lecturer, School of chemistry, University of Bristol

Jonathan Reid, director of the Bristol Aerosol Research Center and professor of physical chemistry at the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, added: “This study confirms that the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are likely to be high during vocalization at high volume. in poorly ventilated spaces. By comparison, playing wind instruments, such as breathing, generates fewer particles that could carry the virus than speaking or singing.


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