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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — A recent study from Colorado State University aimed at better understanding the spread of respiratory particles in performing arts settings shows being male, adult and singing make a person more likely to spread droplets.

The study began in 2020, when much of the performing arts world was still shut down because of the pandemic.

Dan Goble is the director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at CSU. He partnered with aerosol scientists and researchers at the school to try to find ways to safely return to rehearsal and the stage.

“We thought boy, we’re a major Research I university, we should be able to figure this out,” said Goble.

The study tested around 100 people ages 12-64. The participants read aloud, sang and even played wind instruments while respiratory aerosol emissions were measured.

What the study found on aerosol production

The study found that on average:

  • Singing produced 77% more aerosol than talking.
  • Adults produced 62% more aerosol than children.
  • Males produced 34% more aerosol than females.

Scientists say the difference between male and female aerosol production is likely caused by men generally having larger lung capacity — thus, potentially increasing the chance of spreading COVID-19 or other airborne illnesses.

“We had one singer who produced 500% more aerosols than the average. If you’re singing in a choir, you don’t know who that person is,” Goble said.

This study focused only on a performing arts community, but the findings could apply to other crowded spaces where people are speaking in close proximity.

Goble said the findings helped shape how they rehearse safely, such as limiting group size, wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart.

The findings regarding respiratory aerosol spread while playing wind instruments have not yet been published.