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30 June 2021, 15:16
Top trumpet virtuoso Alison Balsom joins a team of researchers and musicians, with findings that could mean full orchestral music getting back to stages sooner.
The study was carried out in a controlled environment with no background aerosol particles to interfere with the measurements. It encompassed nine musicians playing 13 woodwind and brass instruments.
Researchers from the university found large droplets (>20 μm diameter) were not dispersed during instrument playing but were observed during singing and coughing.
Together, this led to the findings that playing woodwind and brass instruments generates fewer aerosols than simply talking at a high volume.
Bristol University research finds playing woodwind and brass instruments generates less aerosol than vocalisation
As part of their research, the university enlisted top performing musicians, including star trumpeter Alison Balsom. She performed in the laboratory conditions to help deliver the all-important droplet data.
Jonathan Reid, Director of Bristol Aerosol Research Centre and Professor of Physical Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, said: “This study confirms that the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are likely elevated during vocalisation at loud volume in poorly ventilated spaces.
“By comparison, playing wind instruments, like breathing, generates less particles that could carry the virus than speaking or singing.”
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Dr Bryan Bzdek, Lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the university, said the study may have important policy implications in a roadmap to lifting COVID-19 restrictions, during a time when many performing arts, orchestral and musical performances have been severely restricted.
The research 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.