Timeline of face masks

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This is a timeline of face masks, attempting to describe significant events related to the history and evolution of these healthcare products. This timeline focuses mainly on cloth and surgical masks, aimed at both healthcare workers and the public in general for airborne disease protection, and omitting complex devises such as self-contained breathing apparatuses.

Sample questions

The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:

  • What are some of the several hazards combated by face mask use?
    • Sort the full timeline column titled "Targeted hazard".
    • You will mostly see airborne diseases like influenza, SARS, and COVID-19. You will also find plague happening mostly in early events, as well as other non-infectious hazards like smoke.
  • What are some old historical records on the use of face masks?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Early use".
    • You will see some early events on use of face masks, previous to the scientific establishment on methods of transmission of disease.
  • What are some events related to the adoption of face masks in the healthcare environment?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Hospital use".
    • You will see early adoption of face masks in the healthcare environment, starting in the 19th century.
  • What are some events related to the adoption of face masks by the general population?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "General use".
    • You will see several boosts in use caused by epidemic outbreaks.
  • What are some events describing the introduction of new face mask prototypes?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Model introduction".
    • You will see the introduction of some prototypes, like the N95 mask.
  • What are some events describing research on different properties of face masks as well as research on hazardous agents combated by the former?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Research".
    • You will mostly see research focused on the effectivity of face masks, but also on hazardous agents and other studies related to basic science of incumbence.
  • What are some recommendations on use of face masks by authorities and important organizations?
  • What are some events related to the face mask industry?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Production".
  • What are some figures illustrating the face mask market size?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Market size".
    • You will see figures indicating global market size as well as some regional figures.
  • Other events are described under the following types: "Anti-mask movement", "Literature", "Policy", and "Protester use".

Big picture

Key developments

Time period Development summary More details
Before 19th century Early development of masks The earliest recorded face mask-like objects in history date to the 6th century BC.[1] In the 14th century, the Black Death in Europe greatly promotes the emergence of functional face mask-like objects.[1] In the 17th century, Charles de Lorme’s miasma-inspired leather overcoat and bird mask doesn’t prevent anyone from contracting the plague.[2][3][3]
19th century Scientific backing establishment The design of the mask takes a big step forward in this century,[1] throughout which doctors continue to go without masks while workers in factories are encouraged to use them to help filter particle-ridden air[2], as there is an understanding of the usefulness of face masks in factories.[2] In the mid-century, German scientists conduct studies with industrial dust and bacteria and their relationship with respiratory health.[4] By the late 1870s, scientists learn about bacteria, and the miasma theory falls from fashion as the modern field of microbiology emerges.[5] In the latter half of the century, face masks begin to be worn in hospital settings, when medical research starts being benefited considerably from Louis Pasteur’s work.[3][6] The modern surgical face mask comes into use around the time that germs and viruses start reshaping medical understandings of disease.[7][8] In the 1880s, Robert Koch identifies the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and cholera. Before his discovery, dirt was simply dirt, and people knew nothing of threatening microbes or viruses.[7] In 1897, Jan Mikulicz-Radecki publishes the first study supporting the use of a mask in surgery.[9][10]
20th century (first half) Widespread adoption by the healthcare system Throughout the early decades of the century, various styles of masks are patented. Most commonly, masks are made of cotton gauze and held in place with a metal frame.[2] In Japan, the mask business flourished during the Taishō period (1912-26).[11] In the 1920s, the surgical mask is used first in the operating rooms of Germany and the United States.[12] By the late 1920s, the use of gauze face masks is widespread.[13][6] In the 1930s, medical masks start to be replaced by disposable paper masks.[10] In the mid-1930s, variations of the gauze type masks begin to appear.[13] During the 1930s and 1940s, gauze and cloth masks are also used by healthcare workers to protect themselves from tuberculosis.[14] In the 1940s, with the introduction of antibiotics, and their rapid acceptance as a means of controlling infection, interest in surgical masks decrease.[13]
20th century (second half) Adoption by the general population In the late 1950s there is a renewed interest in surgical masks.[13] Asians, especially in Japan, China and Taiwan, start wearing masks for a host of cultural and environmental reasons, including non-medical ones.[15] In the 1960s, modern disposable masks grow in popularity.[2] In the mid-1960s, the use of disposable items made of paper and fleece is introduced all over the world after having started in the United States.[12] In the 1980s, flu masks gradually reappear when the hay fever mask becomes common in Japan.[16] In the 1990s, after being used in industrial applications for decades, the N95 mask is adopted in clinical settings with the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis.[5]
21st century (pre-COVID-19) Increase in face mask use throughout the world Mask-wearing increases in the early years of the current century with the SARS outbreak and avian influenza[17]
21st century (post-COVID-19) Massive adoption and compulsory use throughout the world Worldwide mask-wearing use suddenly explodes with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many countries mandating its use in public places. As of 2020, face mask use is part of the everyday landscape all troughout the world, especially in urban areas. However, as of 2020, experts continue to debate the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the spread of diseases. Policies, laws, and practical considerations vary from region to region, as well as people’s attitudes, reflecting their cultural values and history.[18]

Summary by mask type

Masks/respirator type Advantages Disadvantages
Bandana Better than nothing. Decreases droplets spray from more than 8 feet to about 4 feet. An adequate piece of cloth can be repurposed. Washable, reusable. Droplet reduction by only about 50 per cent and neck fleeces increasing the amount of spray, probably by dispersing the largest droplets into many smaller droplets.[19]
-occupyboston (6224348389).jpg
Homemade cloth mask Better than bandanas. Hand-made cotton face coverings eliminate 70 to 90 per cent of the spray, depending on the layers and the pleating.[19] Washable, reusable. Single-layer masks may only provide 1% particle filtration.[20]
Homemade cloth face mask (01).jpg
Neck gaiters and balaclavas Washable, reusable. Synthetic fabric, which is often used, isn't as effective as cotton in preventing the spread of small particles. Moreover, neck gaiters made of synthetic fleece can be harmful as they essentially aerosolize the wearer's respiratory droplets.[20]
Neck gaiter1.jpg
Store-bought cloth mask High quality masks could be 80-95 percent protective.[20] Washable, reusable. Low-quality masks made of very thin materials could still be 10-20 percent protective.[20]
Protective masks vending machine in Karviná, Czech Republic
Disposable surgical mask Diligent wearing in public spaces can significantly reduce the spread of respiratory infection.[20] Not reusable.[21]
Surgical face mask.jpg
N95 respirator It offers the most protection against COVID 2019 and other respiratory diseases. Reduces droplet transmission to less than 0.1 per cent.[19] It can't be washed.[21]
Mascarilla N95.jpg
KN95 respirator Similarly to N95 masks, it captures about 95% of tiny particles in the air.[22] Not reusable.[21]
Corona Face mask KN95 (50576539878).jpg
Face shield It protects the entire face. Droplets can disperse over a wide area in both lateral and longitudinal directions. Aerosol-sized droplet particles from coughs or sneezes escape from the gaps in the bottom and on the sides of the shield.[23]
Face shield and denim mask

Full timeline

Year Targeted hazard Event type Details Location
9000 BP Early use Early well-documented masks are found in the Judaean Desert.[24] Middle East
69 BC–30 BC Early use Cleopatra VII Philopator is famous for using several different combinations to create "the ultimate face masks".[25] Egypt
1619 Plague Early use The invention of the "beak doctor" costume used against the plague is attributed to Charles de Lorme, who adopts the idea of a full head-to-toe protective garment,[26] modeled after a soldier's canvas gown which goes from the neck to the ankle.[26][27][28] The over-clothing garment, as well as leggings, gloves, boots, and a hat, are made of waxed leather.[29] The garment is impregnated with similar fragrant items as the beak mask.[30] France
Plague doctor outfit from Germany (17th century).
1720 Plague Early use Paintings from Marseille during the last major outbreak of bubonic plague in western Europe show gravediggers and people handling bodies with cloth around their faces.[5] France
1827 Research Scottish scientist Robert Brown discovers the later called "Brownian motion" which theoretically proves the protective effect of masks on dust.[1] The theory states that collisions of rapidly moving gas molecules causes the random bouncing motion of extremely small particles. This understanding would lead to the development of the first particulate respirator.[4] United Kingdom
1848 Mining pollution Model introduction Lewis Hassley in the United States develops a mask for miners, obtaining the first patent for a protective mask.[1][1] United States
1861 Bacteria Research French scientist Louis Pasteur proves the presence of bacteria in the air. This makes more people pay attention to the design of modern masks.[1] France
1877 Smoke Model introduction The Nealy Smoke Mask is invented and patented in England as the first filter type firefighter protective apparatus.[4][31] United Kingdom
1879 General use One of the first domestically produced masks is advertised in newspapers in Japan.[11] Japan
1895 Noxious fumes Recommendation Henrot suggests equipping the privates in Madagascar with face masks to protect them from noxious fumes. By this time this idea is considered comical if not downright ridiculous.[3] Madagascar
1897 Hospital-acquired infection Model introduction Polish surgeon Jan Mikulicz-Radecki describes a surgical mask composed on one layer of gauze.[32] The practice of using face masks is considered to be introduced by him.[6] Poland
Jan Mikulicz-Radecki
1897 Tuberculosis Research German hygienist Carl Flügge publishes his works on the development of droplet infections as part of his research on tuberculosis.[12] Flügge, along with Jan Mikulicz-Radecki, suggest the idea of a facemask after having demonstrated the presence of bacterial droplets from the nose and mouth.[33][12] Germany
Carl Flügge
1897 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use Doctors start wearing early surgical masks.[5]
1898 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use Huebner recommends masks made of two layers of gauze, worn at a distance from the nose, to be used during operations.[32]
1899 Hospital-acquired infection Model introduction A French doctor develops a mask made of six layers of gauze and sews it on the collar of a surgical gown. The user only needs to flip the collar up when using it. It would gradually evolve into a form that could be freely tied and hung on the ears with a looped strap, thus giving birth to the modern mask.[1] France
1905 Scarlet fever Research American physician Alice Hamilton publishes an article proposing that scarlet fever is transmitted through droplet infection, thus recommends that masks be worn in hospitals.[32] [6][33] United States
Alice Hamilton in 1893
1910 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use The application of face covers starts becoming common in surgery and the general hospitals.[12]
1910 Pneumonic plague General use During an epidemic of pneumonic plague in Manchuria, Malaysian physician Wu Lien-teh argues that the disease is transmitted through airborne contact, and develops masks to be worn by medical personnel and the general public.[6][34] This marks the beginning of an ethic of wearing masks in China during public-health emergencies.[35][7] China
1915 Infantile paralysis Hospital use Meltzer recommends fine mesh gauze masks to cover the faces of patients with infantile paralysis and the faces of personnel attending them.[32]
1917 Dust Model introduction The first commercial dust respirator is invented.[16]
1918 Diphtheria Hospital use G. H. Weaver in Chicago reports that over a two-year period the incidence of diphtheria contracted by attendants of infected patients was reduced to zero after wearing masks of double thickness gauze.[32][33][9] United States
1918 Influenza General use During the 1918 flu pandemic, people again starts to wear face masks. However, while the practice whould endure in China due to continued outbreaks, it would be largely forgotten in the United States and other countries.[36][7]
A nurse wears a cloth mask while treating a patient in Washington, DC
1918 Influenza Recommendation The U.S. Academy of Medicine recommends that masks be worn to avoid the spread of flu among health staff.[3] United States
1918 Influenza Production During the 1918 flu pandemic, the Red Cross encourages women to sew masks.[37]
Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918
1918 Influenza Anti-mask movement After San Francisco enforces the wearing of masks during the 1918 flu pandemic, the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco is formed as an anti-mask movement with the purpose to fight for the mask-wearing mandate to be repealed.[38][39] United States
Barbers wearing masks during the epidemic
1918 Research The first study producing a specification for surgical masks is published. This study finds extreme variations in the numbers of layers and quality of gauze of which masks are made, with researchers undertaking a series of tests to determine how many layers were needed to provide complete filtration.[40]
1919 Mining pollution Model introduction The United States Bureau of Mines initiates the first respirator certification program, and certifies the first respirator.[4] United States
1919 Influenza Research By the end of the 1918 flu pandemic, most scientists and health commissions come to a consensus about the benefits of wearing masks.[41]
1919 Tokyo, Japan
1920 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use The use of masks becomes routine practice in the operating room.[33]
1920 Research Kellogg and MacMillan undertake an array of tests on masks, and conclude that they have not been demonstrated to have a degree of efficiency that would warrant mandatory use.[42][40] United States
1923 Ash and smoke General use In the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake, people in Tokyo and Yokohama wear masks to protect themselves from all of the ash and smoke. By this time, Kotobuki Mask by Uchiyama Takeshoten becomes the first registered trademark product.[43] Japan
1924 Plague General use Gauze masks are used during the so-called second Manchurian plague epidemic.[14] United States
1926 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use A clinical study first demonstrates a potential link between wearing masks and reduced surgical site infection.[33] The effectiveness of surgical masks on patient infection reduction is established by research.[44]
1927 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use German surgeon Martin Kirschner describes the necessity of wearing a facemask in his multi-volume operational theory in the chapter Measures to combat infections.[12] Germany
1927 Hospital-acquired infection Research American bacteriologist Edwin O. Jordan publishes his definitive study, which determines that masks are effective when worn by patients already sick or by those directly exposed to victims, including nurses and physicians. Jordan also acknowledges, however, that “masks are uncomfortable and inconvenient, as anyone who has worn them can testify” and require a great deal of “discipline, self-imposed or other.”[45] United States
1929 Influenza Hospital use Professor Marchoux at the National Academy of Medicine recommends, particularly for doctors and hospital staff, wearing a light structure, hat veil or mask, in addition to spectacles, on the face, in order to protect against the projection of septic droplets from flu patients.[3] United States
1929 Meningitis Recommendation During a meningitis outbreak in China, the government encourages citizens to use masks and avoid public gatherings.[46][47] China
1930 Surgical wound infection Hospital use Walker publishes data confirming the value of face masks in preventing infection of surgical wounds.[13]
1934 Influenza General use An influenza epidemic in Japan triggers a different relationship with masks for the citizens, that of social courtesy. Infected people become conscientious about not passing on germs to others, and masks are no longer only worn by healthy individuals trying to avoid illness.[34] The Japanese government actively encourages its citizens to wear masks on public transportation, in theaters, and any other place people gather. This practice is reinforced to the point where those without a mask are sometimes barred from entry.[43] Japan
1935 Hospital-acquired infection Literature Face masks are mentioned in an edition of the book Assistance for operating staff.[12]
1935 Hospital-acquired infection Research Study by Meleney further confirms the value of face masks in preventing infection of surgical wounds.[13]
1936 Hospital-acquired infection Research A study reports on the results of a nine-year prospective study suggesting that use of surgical masks could contribute to surgical wound infections.[44]
1937 Chemical and biological weapons General use During the Second Sino-Japanese War, face masks become essential protection against chemical and biological warfare.[46] China
1937 Hospital-acquired infection Research Study by Hart and Davis confirms the value of face masks in preventing infection of surgical wounds.[13]
1948 Bacterial infection Research Study shows that large numbers of bacteria are liberated into the air from desquamated skin and clothing as a result of normal body activity, and that air in the operating room is contaminated more regularly and to a greater degree by the liberation of dust from clothing than by sneezing.[40]
1948–1950 Influenza Research After a period of decline since the end of the Spanish flu, the use of face masks quickly becomes common again during several major flu outbreaks around this time.[48]
1950 Air pollution Model introduction White gauze masks are first produced in Japan, as well as simple cloth ones without a wire frame. Previously, early masks were black, brown or green, in order to disguise dirt or stains from repeated use. New white masks are not only a response to industrialization and its subsequent pollution, but also used to combat the pollen from Japanese cedars that thrive off of the extra carbon dioxide.[43] Japan
1956 Staphylococcus aureus Research Hare confirms that staphylococcus aureus is carried in the anterior nares in 50% of the population, but finds it was generally only expelled from the nose during sneezing and snorting.[40]
1958 Research Kiser and Hitchcock report on a mask that combines the deflection and filtration principles. This plastic mask diverts the flow of breath backward on either side. Filter material near the side outlets is designed to trap the deflected organisms.[13]
1958 Research Andersen develops a sampling chamber to collect airborne particles in several categories of decreasing particle size.[13]
1959 Research Adam evaluates a fitted filter mask and finds it more efficient than gauze masks.[13]
1959 Nasal bacteria Research Shooter finds that few, if any, nasal bacteria are expelled into the air during quiet breathing, despite heavy nasal colonization.[40]
1960 Research Rockwood and O’Donoghuelg report that the length of time a filter mask retains its efficiency is three hours, confirming the inefficiency of absorbing gauze masks, and stressing the fact that the proper use of the best mask available could prevent infection.[13]
1961 Bacterial pathogens Model introduction Musselman reports on a mask designed to be used only once and then discarded. The mask incorporates a filter in a plastic shell that is shaped to fit the face. An elastic band secures it in place. Excellent bacterial filtration is reported.[13]
1961 Dust Model introduction 3M releases a “bubble” surgical mask that takes its inspiration from the cup of a bra. When 3M learns it can’t block pathogens, the mask is re-branded as a “dust” mask."[5] United States
1962 Hospital acquired bacterial infection Research Davis shows that desquamated skin, not expelled particulate matter, is the source of most common bacteria dispersed into the air of hospital wards.[40]
1966–1968 Influenza General use The use of face masks in Japan becomes even more common during several major flu outbreaks happening around this time.[48] Japan
1967 Model introduction The 3M mask starts being produced by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.[1] United States
1972 Model introduction 3M introduces the first single use N95 respirator mask.[2][9] United States
N95 respirator
1973 Model introduction The pleated design made of non-woven fabric is introduced.[43]
1975 Research A study by Ritter shows that, although surgical masks do not contain airborne contaminants, they act to deflect the droplets out of the sides of the mask when the wearer talks or breaths.[40]
1976 Microbial infection Research Study on the effect of surgical mask movement on facial areas (eg, under the chin, eyes, nose) concludes that the dissemination of skin bacteria could be attributable to the friction (ie, wiggling) that occurs between surgical masks and these areas of microbial skin contamination during talking.[44]
1981 Surgical wound infection Research A study on the influence of surgical masks on the risk of surgical wound infections concludes that wearing surgical masks "have little relevance to the well-being of patients undergoing routine general surgical procedures and that wearing surgical masks could be abandoned as a standard of practice."[44]
1981 Research A study is conducted to determine whether the wearing of surgical masks influences the risk of surgical wound infections. In this study, no surgical masks are worn by surgical staff in the operating room. A total of 1,049 surgical procedures with skin incisions are performed, and a surgical wound infection rate of 1.8% is identified. This rate is significantly lower than that experienced before the trial commenced (P<0.05). It is concluded that the standard practice of wearing surgical masks could be abandoned.[40]
1984 Hospital-acquired infection Research Researchers conduct a randomly controlled trial on women having gynaecological surgery. Women are randomly allocated to lists staffed entirely by masked or unmasked teams. The trial is discontinued within a week after the third case of postoperative infection in the unmasked group, representing three out of five patients, whereas none of four patients develop infections in the masked group.[40]
1984 Wound infection Research A study on wounds sutured in an emergency department notes that there is no significant difference in infection rates whether or not masks were worn.[40]
1987 Research Researchers show that even when masks are worn correctly, the airflow during inhalation could bypass the mask material, resulting in reduced filtering efficacy and an increased health risk for dental operators.[49]
1989 Research Research shows no increase in the cases of infection following cardiac catheterization procedures when caps and masks were not worn.[40]
1991 Research A study on the effectiveness of surgical masks concludes that operating room staff not immediately in the vicinity of the surgical site do not pose an infection hazard, and that it is not necessary for these staff to wear surgical masks.[40]
1991 Research An article by Wildsmith claims that masks should be worn when spinal or extradural anaesthesia is performed. He comments on the importance of the mask, stating that “the anterior nares and mouth are relatively close to, and usually immediately above, the sterile field” in such procedures.[40]
1991 Research A study looking at the correlation between surgical masks and the incidence of postoperative wound infection finds that surgical procedures performed with masks have a surgical wound infection rate of 4.7% (3.7 to 5.8%, 95% confidence limit), whereas surgical procedures performed without masks have a surgical wound infection rate of 3.5% (2.6 to 4.5%). The bacterial culture from both groups is found to be similar.[40]
1992 Research A study on the effectiveness of surgical face masks in reducing bacterial surface contamination produced by dispersal of organisms from the upper airway finds that the unmasked group shows a statistically significant increase in the number of microbial colonies.[40]
1992 Aerobic and anaerobic skin bacteria Research A study by Tunevall finds almost identical air counts of aerobic and anaerobic skin bacteria whether or not masks were worn by operating staff, with no postoperative infections being found during the study, involving 22 operations.[40]
1993 Research Leyland hypothesizes that masks "filter bacteria from the nose and mouth into aggregates of sufficient size as to be affected by gravity, hence falling, rather than remaining atomized and being expelled from the operating theatre by the air change system."[40]
1993 Research A study recommends that obstetricians should wear face shields or eyeglasses to protect against facial contamination, reporting that obstetricians commonly receive blood or amniotic fluid splashes to the face during deliveries (50% during caesarean delivery and 32% during vaginal delivery).[40]
1995 Research A study shows no significant difference in the infection rate between surgical mask users and staff wearing surgical visors.[40]
1995 Hospital use The N95 respirator becomes a healthcare standard in epidemics.[2][50]
N95 respirator
1998 Recommendation The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization recommend using cotton masks to protect from viral hemorrhagic fevers in low-resource healthcare settings in Africa if respirators or medical masks were not available.[14]
1999 Bacterial infection Research A study on the environmental effect of various gown protections in a mock operating room setting finds that the wearing of a surgical face mask in the hallway or the operating room has no effect on the bacterial counts in either the hallway or the operating room.[40]
2001 Research Researchers in Tasmania conclude that surgical masks should not be mandatory for anaesthetists in "the setting of a modern operating theater, with laminar flow/steriflow systems". They also note the available evidence suggests "surgical masks offer incomplete protection from airborne bacteria and viruses".[51] Australia
2002 Severe acute respiratory syndrome General use The 2002–2004 SARS outbreak prompts a mask resurgence in China, Hong Kong and across most of East Asia and Southeast Asia.[8] In East Asian countries besides Japan and China, the public practice is first forged.[1][35] East Asia, Southeast Asia
2003 Severe acute respiratory syndrome Research A comparative study on a sample size of 111 individuals in Hong Kong finds that healthcare workers who wore paper masks had lower risks of SARS infection.[52] China
2003 Model introduction Unicharm introduces 3D masks, which stand away from the mouth to make breathing easier, and to keep makeup from smearing.[43] Japan
2004 Severe acute respiratory syndrome Research A comparative study in Guangdong Province, China, finds that healthcare workers who wear both layer gauze and paper masks have lower risks of SARS infection.[52] China
2005 Influenza Recommendation The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues recommendations for the appropriate use of medical masks as part of a group of influenza control strategies in healthcare settings.[53] United States
2006 Severe acute respiratory syndrome Research A study on healthcare workers wearing N95 masks during the SARS epidemic concludes that the use of N95 masks may cause the healthcare workers to develop headaches and wearing them for shorter amounts of time may reduce the frequency and severity of the headaches.[54]
2006 Model introduction Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh share their method of making face masks with a Hanes Heavyweight 100 per cent pre-shrunk cotton T-shirt. It involves cutting the shirt into one outer layer and eight inner layers, then tying the pieces together and around the wearer’s head.[55] United States
2006 Influenza Recommendation The US Institute of Medicine prepares a report about the reusability of face masks during an influenza pandemic.[14] United States
2007 Hospital-acquired infection Hospital use Preliminary work in Australia shows very low acceptance of and compliance with mask use by hospital doctors and nurses.[56] Australia
2008 Research A study comparing surgical and respirator masks with homemade masks made from tea towels finds that homemade masks are not as effective, but might still provide “a significant degree of protection.”[55]
2009 Severe acute respiratory syndrome Research A comparative study by Liu et al. on a sample size of 447 individuals in Beijing finds that healthcare workers who wore cotton masks had significantly lower risks of SARS infection.[52] China
2009 Swine influenza General use About 85 million N95 masks are distributed to combat the swine flu pandemic.[57]
2009 Influenza (H1N1) Recommendation The World Health Organization discusses the option of using cloth masks to protect wearers from acquiring infection during the Swine flu pandemic.[14]
2009 Research Research reports on the possibility of the N95 respirator mask to be sterilized, but advises it not to be washed with soap, warm water, alcohol or bleach. The study concludes that "even exposure to ultraviolet radiation or using a microwave oven is not advisable since these methods damage the electrostatic charge and significantly reduce the filtration capacity".[9]
2009–2011 Swine influenza General use The 2009 swine flu pandemic sees further upsurges of prophylactic mask-wearing in Japan, regardless of government advice.[7] Japan
2011 Research A survey of mask use conducted in Tokyo shows that face masks are worn as protection against infection or to avoid spreading infections to others, but also as a general form of protection and as a sign of respect and responsibility.[48] Japan
2012 General use A dense wave of smog in China prompts a large-scale use of masks. The term "PM2.5" begins to enter public awareness, and mask models such as N95 and KN90, which can filter out this fine particulate matter, become highly popular.[1] China
Smog in Shanghai, 6 December 2013
2012 H1N1 influenza Research A comparative study by Zhang et al. on a sample size of 56 individuals in Beijing finds that cloth mask use did not significantly decrease the risk of H1N1 infection in health care setting.[52] China
2012 Influenza Research Study at the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan finds that, to be effective, masks must be worn consistently and early — as soon as flu season begins. The study also shows that masks work best in combination with other measures, particularly frequent hand-washing.[58] United States
2013 Influenza Research A study at University of Cambridge compares homemade masks made out of a variety of household materials with surgical masks on their efficacy in offering protection during an influenza pandemic. All the masks studied in the report are found to reduce the number of microorganisms expelled into the air by volunteers, at least to an extent. Masks from dish/​cleaning towels or cotton blend t‑shirts are found to be considerably effective in capturing small particles (stopping 83% and 74% of the particles, respectively).[34] United Kingdom
Homemade cloth face mask
2013 Research A study finds that vacuum bags, while being an unconventional option for at-home masks, are found to perform the strongest compared to other household alternatives.[55][59]
2014 Viral infection Research A cough simulation study suggests that a face shield, correctly manufactured and worn, could reduce a person’s viral exposure to a cough expelled less than 18 inches away by 96%.[60][61]
2015 Droplet infection Research Study by a team of Indian scientists on the dispersion of particles expelled during coughing/​sneezing using aerodynamic simulation techniques finds that larger droplets emitted from coughing/​sneezing can be blocked by a mask. A mask reduces the distance travelled by smaller droplets from nearly 2 meters to less than 30 cm. At the same time, maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 meters is greatly beneficial as even the particles that escaped the mask in the study could carry the virus no farther than 1.5 meters.[34]
2015 Hospital-acquired infection Research Study comparing the efficacy of cloth masks with that of medical masks and controls (standard practice) among healthcare workers in Vietnam finds that rates of infection are consistently higher among those in the cloth mask group than in the medical mask and control groups. This finding suggests that risk for infection is higher for those wearing cloth masks.[14] Vietnam
2016 Model introduction A “Small-Face Mask” is introduced in Japan. It would be ranked among the top ten masks for women in a 2018 survey so that “your dream to have a smaller face will come true.”[43] Japan
2017 General use The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest sheet face mask market share ot 42.91% of the global market, with Japan as one of the leading markets in the region, accounting for the largest market share during the review period.[62] Asia-Pacific
Face mask at Great Wall China
2017 Research Research reports on the possibility of the N95 respirator mask to be sterilized in a dry rice cooker for 3 min at 149–164 degrees Celsius.[9]
2018 Recommendation Medical anthropologist Christos Lynteris publishes article prompting readers to think about surgical masks as masks, bodily prostheses that transform the identity of the wearer. The gauze mask has both practical and performative significance. Practically, it creates a barrier against the inhalation of invisible airborne pathogens. At the same time, it performs symbolically the idea of a regime against airborne pathogens.[7]
2018 Influenza Research A study concludes that if only 20 percent of people use masks, it wouldn’t make a difference for the spread of influenza. The effect is found to be substancial at 50 percent compliance, with the use of high-filtration surgical masks.[63]
South Carolina National Guard assembles personal protective face masks
2018 Production About 4.3 million disposable masks are manufactured for personal use in Japan in this year.[43] Japan
2018 Market size The global face masks market reaches approximately US$ 5.80 billion in this year.[64] Worldwide
2019 Production As of year, mainland China manufactures half the world output of masks.[65] China
Citizens of Wuhan lining up outside of a drug store to buy masks during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak
2019 Market size The global face mask industry surpasses US$7.24 billion in the year.[66] Worldwide
2019 Market size The protective face mask market size in North America surpasses US$ 470 million.[67] North America
2019–2020 Surveillance Protester use During the Hong Kong protests, face masks are worn as both a political statement and as a tool for disguising identity from closed-circuit TV cameras. They would become so popular that the government would go so far as to try to ban them, immediately elevating them to a symbol of revolt.[8] Hong Kong
Before the protest speaking 20200223.png
2020 (April 15) Coronavirus disease 2019 Model introduction Scientists claim having developed a biodegradable material for face masks which is effective at removing particles smaller than 100 nanometres including viruses and has a high breathability.[68][69] Australia
2020 (April 22) Coronavirus disease 2019 Recommendation A study by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine recommends wearing an anti-projection mask covering the nose and mouth, designed to retain droplets projected when speaking, coughing or sneezing and stop them dispersing in the immediate environment.[3] United States
Rhode Island National Guardsmen sew face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic
2020 (April 27) Coronavirus disease 2019 Policy Face masks become mandatory for shopping and in public transportation in Germany.[12] Germany
FFP1 face mask, 2020
2020 (October 22) Coronavirus disease 2019 Policy Malaysia's health ministry states that Muslim women who wear niqab or purdah are still required to wear face masks to curb Covid-19, as those veils are considered non-medical mask and those wearing them are not exempted from regulations on face mask use devised by the World Health Organization.[70] Malaysia
Niqab with nose string
2020 (November 24) Coronavirus disease 2019 Research A study by the American Institute of Physics finds that if 70% of people wore surgical masks, the pandemic would be "eradicated."[71][72]
2020 (November 30) Coronavirus disease 2019 Recommendation The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues guidance on the use of dry heat to help support the single-user reuse of certain particulate filtering facepiece respirators. United States
Surgical masks being decontaminated for reuse under ultraviolet light
2023 Coronavirus disease 2019 Market size The European sheet face mask market is estimated to exceed US$284.6 million by this year.[62] Europe
2026 Market size The face mask market is expected to surpass US$21.2 billion by this year.[73]
2027 Market size According to a study published by Polaris Market Research, the global face mask market is expected to surpass US$ 31.83 billion by this year.[74] Worldwide

Numerical and visual data

Google Scholar

The following table summarizes per-year mentions on Google Scholar as of May 29, 2021.

Year face mask surgical face mask face mask ventilation respiratory face mask face mask effectiveness
1980 5,250 457 425 549 1,110
1985 6,160 625 570 778 1,250
1990 10,900 956 834 1,170 2,150
1995 17,100 1,500 1,280 1,700 3,570
2000 27,400 2,830 2,140 2,960 5,700
2002 31,000 2,950 2,390 3,440 6,760
2004 33,600 3,860 3,140 4,170 7,750
2006 37,700 4,540 3,600 4,930 8,900
2008 42,700 4,890 3,680 5,220 9,840
2010 49,000 5,800 4,050 5,740 11,500
2012 53,500 7,180 5,000 6,980 13,700
2014 52,500 7,210 5,010 7,450 15,000
2016 51,000 8,070 5,630 8,140 17,000
2017 48,300 8,740 5,720 8,640 17,200
2018 44,100 8,860 5,660 8,650 18,200
2019 39,000 8,390 5,750 8,900 18,900
2020 41,400 18,900 11,200 24,400 22,600
Face mask.png

Google Trends

The comparative chart below shows Google Trends data for Face mask (Topic) and Cloth face mask (Topic), from January 2004 to March 2021, when the screenshot was taken. Interest is also ranked by country and displayed on world map.[75]

Face mask and Cloth face mask gt.png

The image below shows Google Trends data for "Face mask" (topic), from January 2004 to December 2020. The image also shows interest by country, with higher values in darker blue.[76]

Face mask Google Trends.png

The image below shows Google Trends data for "Cloth face mask" (topic), from January 2004 to December 2020. The image also shows interest by country, with higher values in darker blue.[77]

Cloth face mask Google Trends.png

Google Ngram Viewer

The chart below shows Google Ngram Viewer data for Face masks, from 1800 to 2019.[78]

Face masks.jpeg

Wikipedia Views

The chart below shows pageviews of the English Wikipedia article Face mask, on desktop, mobile-web, desktop-spider, mobile-web-spider and mobile app, from July 2015 to February 2021.[79]

Face mask wv.png

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

The initial version of the timeline was written by User:Sebastian.

Funding information for this timeline is available.

Feedback and comments

Feedback for the timeline can be provided at the following places:

What the timeline is still missing

Timeline update strategy

See also

External links


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    • Pommerville (Body Systems), p. 15
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