Wind music causes less transmission than singing
Playing wind instruments produces less viral load than speaking or singing because the instruments act like a filter for larger particles. Additionally, a filter for the instrument and wearing FFP2 masks can minimize the risk of infection. Credit: (c) Birte Thiede / MPI-DS

When it comes to spreading diseases, the voice is the most risky. Infections release more than 500 times the amount of particles into the air compared to breathing quietly.

When people play music with wind instruments, less aerosol enters the environment than during singing, but still 5 to 50 times more than during breathing.

The researchers analyzed the amount of particles that were released when 20 different wind instruments were played. The upper limit for the risk of transmission was determined from the results in each case. The journal of aerosol science has their research in it.

The instrument's risk of transmission is dependent on it.

Musical instruments are less risky than talking or singing according to the head of a research group on aerosols at the MPI-DS. The Gttingen team's study shows that the larger respiratory droplets are the most important for the transmission of Viruses. The instruments act as filters.

Wind music is not a good idea for the musicians and the audience to listen to. The particles with a small size emerge from the instrument. They stay in the air for a longer time and spread further so that they can reach high concentrations. The team measured a very low concentration of released particles for various flutes, but the values were much higher for the clarinet.

After four minutes, the risk of transmission is up to 50%. The risk of transmission is only reached after three hours. Values for other instruments were in between.

People and instruments are protected with masks.

Particle filters with similar properties to the fleece of FFP2 masks can be used to reduce the risk of transmission. The prototypes were placed on the ends of brass instruments.

An instrument mask can reduce the emission of infectious particles. Even if the audience wears an FFP2 mask, the risk of transmission is less than one hour.

"On this basis, we can recommend more targeted protective measures in the future and maintain musical cultural activities with only minor restrictions even in critical situations," she said.

"Lessons, rehearsals, and concerts with wind instruments can be conducted safely with adequate ventilation and the wearing of FFP2 masks," concludes Eberhard Bodenschatz.

More information: Oliver Schlenczek et al, Experimental measurement of respiratory particles dispersed by wind instruments and analysis of the associated risk of infection transmission, Journal of Aerosol Science (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.jaerosci.2022.106070