Singing in a choir may be good for your soul, but it can also spread COVID-19 far more easily than conversation does.
A new study also found that the louder and person sings or talks, the more particles are spewed into the air, and that more particles are released by men than women, and by adults than children.
Fears that airborne transmission of COVID-19 could pose a risk to performers and audience members severely curtailed live performances in the early stages of the pandemic, so researchers decided to assess the levels of aerosols (tiny airborne particles less than 100 microns in size) emitted by singers, actors and musicians who play wind instruments.
The study included about 100 volunteers, ages 12-61, who sat or stood while talking, singing or playing instruments in an aerosol testing chamber at Colorado State University.
Singing produced 77% more aerosols than talking, adults produced 62% more aerosols than youngsters; and males produced 34% more aerosols than females, according to the findings.
Data on wind instrument-playing wasn’t included because it requires further analysis.
The differences between adults and children and between males and females were largely driven by voice volume and total exhaled carbon dioxide (CO2), the researchers noted.
They said that lends support to the idea that measuring carbon dioxide levels and noise levels in an enclosed space could offer a simple, low-cost way to assess the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases such as the common cold or seasonal flu.
“If there were significant differences after accounting for CO2 between males and females and kids, then you’d have to know how many males, females and minors were in a room to estimate transmission risks,” said John Volckens, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University.
“Our data suggest that you don’t need to know that if you just measure CO2 and noise levels, because those measures are an equalizer for these demographic differences,” Volckens said in a university news release.
The study was published recently in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how COVID-19 spreads.
SOURCE: Colorado State University, news release, Nov. 11, 2021