Give me some Oxygen!

The internet is a wealth of amazing knowledge and honest evidence and science-supported peer-reviewed answers on anything you have a question about, educational outlets, DIY tutorials on just about anything you can imagine, wonderful art, photography, music, culture, shopping, and hilarious cat videos.  However, if you look in the wrong dark corner – it is also a putrid cesspool of filth filled, lunatic fringe, manufactured misinformation, disinformation, and targeted doubt, fueled by basement-dwelling, troglodytic trolls sharing selling their own brand of fear-focused snake-oil “medicine” cures for anything that ails you, with all of it leading down twisted paths to dead ends of great gory heaps of rancid hogwash.  The hard part is knowing how to sort out the good from the bad and not get lost in the quagmire of insanity that is the fetid, festering underbelly of the World Wide Web.

Usually, the extreme fringe dwelling claims of internet know-it-all hawkers preaching their versions of their “truth” and their “reality” on websites, social media, and streaming video channels, these are very  easily debunked with common knowledge and common sense.  Other times, when it is hard to see through the words of all the charlatans – there are wonderful fact-checking websites (snopes.com, factcheck.org, politifact.com, and many more), that will help us sort the wheat from the chaff – and there is a lot of chaff.

Sometimes, however, common sense, knowledge, and actual facts are not enough to convince the dangerously skeptical among us.  Many will often cry that the evidence and facts are being manufactured and/or manipulated, strings are being pulled behind the scenes, and that “it” – whatever “it” is – is all a hoax or a conspiracy, etc.

When this happens I feel that it could only be helpful if regular people like me take a serious look at the situation, analyze it with a scientifically skeptical mind, and then share our findings.  In doing this, maybe some of the overly skeptical/fearful folks will see that the results of a friend show exactly what the experts are saying – on whatever the subject may be.  Then, maybe, hopefully, these doubting individuals will be enlightened to the facts found by a friend instead of some nameless white coat and mask-wearing scientist in a lab somewhere, or a talking head on TV.  Maybe once they see that someone they know has come to the same conclusion as the highly educated and peer-reviewed experts – then maybe, hopefully, they will choose to put aside all the crazy internet-sourced, often dangerous to their health and the health of their friends and family bad ideas, and they will decide to choose wisely on this, and whatever the next topic may be.

Maybe with my example as an inspiration, they might choose to do their own research and answer their own questions over just believing anything they read/see/hear/share online.

Obviously, it is dangerous and not in any way helpful for anyone to just believe blindly and without question all the randomly shared stories/comments/claims/cures seen online. Personally, I try to think critically when anyone makes any claim targeting the learned, evidence-supported, peer-reviewed recommendations of the experts in any given field of study.  When I have questions, and I have a lot of them, I choose to do the research and answer the questions with real results and real evidence – with real science. However, if you do not trust and/or believe me in my quest for the evidence, and for knowledge – then please, try it out for yourself and share your results with your peers and see if they come to the same conclusions.  If they do, then whatever the outcome, and if you did your science correctly – it must be true.

Today’s Internet Claim: Wearing masks reduces or depletes your blood oxygen levels and therefore is not a good idea.

This claim instantly sounded like a good one to test due to its common sense and evidence lacking spin – so let’s get into it.

Demonstration #1: I used a super cool homemade two-ply cloth filter mask my other sister made for me.

My job as a teacher requires a lot of speaking, walking around the classroom and grounds – so, yes, I exert myself enough to need good air/oxygen flow.

I wore this mask all day at work while teaching and working inside and outside the classroom.

I only took it off during lunch when no one was in the building – so I could eat.

In total, I wore the mask for 6.5 hours during my class sessions – as I have done every day in class since late March.

During this time I used a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen level (SpO2) at 10 random times throughout the day during all activities.

A masked me with oximeter reading my SpO2.

The Results:

Baseline: At the start of the day and before putting on the mask, my SpO2 was: 97% (This is an average of three readings taken a few seconds apart.  Each time I take my SpO2 level I follow this same protocol – three consecutive readings, averaged together.)

During the workday.

My highest SpO2: 98% (mask on – teaching, moving around the room)

My lowest SpO2: 95% (mask off – sitting during lunch)

My average SpO2: 96.2%

Demonstration #2: I purchased a mass-manufactured Halo Mask (https://halolife.io/ ) – this is a three-layer mask including a replaceable microfiber filter.  

My job as a teacher requires a lot of speaking, walking around the classroom and grounds – so, yes, I exert myself enough to need good air/oxygen flow.

I wore this mask all day at work while teaching and working inside and outside the classroom.

I only took it off only during lunch when no one was in the building – so I could eat.

In total, I wore the mask for 6.5 hours during my class sessions.

During this time I used a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen level (SpO2) at 10 random times throughout the day during all activities.

Wearing the Halomask

The results:

Baseline: At the start of the day and before putting on the mask, my SpO2 was: 96.7% (This is an average of three readings taken a few seconds apart.  Each time I take my SpO2 level I follow this same protocol – three consecutive readings, averaged together.)

During the workday:

My highest SpO2: 95% (mask on – teaching, moving around the room)

My lowest SpO2: 94% (mask on – teaching)

My average SpO2: 95.03%

Demonstration #3: I purchased a GVS SPR457 Elipse P100 Dust Half Mask Respirator ( https://www.stewartsupply.com/elipse-p100-size-m-l )

I wore it for a supply run trip into a local hardware store. I also wore it when I was cleaning my classroom three times during the day.  During each instance of wearing the respirator mask I had it on for an average duration of 26 minutes.  During each instance I was actively working – shopping and cleaning – in other words, these are things that require some physical exertion and therefore good air/oxygen flow.

In total, I wore the mask for a total duration of 106 minutes.

My average time wearing the mask was 26.5 minutes.  

During each of these instances I used a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen level (SpO2) at the completion of each session wearing the GVS mask.

Wearing the professional respirator mask.

The results:

Baseline: At the start of the day and before putting on the mask, my SpO2 was: 96.7% (This is an average of three readings taken a few seconds apart.  Each time I take my SpO2 level I follow this same protocol – three consecutive readings, averaged together.)

During the demonstration:

My highest SpO2: 98.3% (shopping)

My lowest SpO2: 94.3% (cleaning)

My average SpO2: 95.90%

Comparing the three demonstrations we see the following:

Demo #1 Homemade Cloth Mask:  Average SpO2: 96.20%

Demo #2 Three layer microfiber filter mask:  Average SpO2: 95.03%

Demo #3: Professional respirator mask:  Average SpO2: 95.90%

Average SpO2 w/o a mask: 95.81%

Average SpO2 with all types of mask tested: 95.71%

Notes:

At sea level, a healthy human has an SpO2 between 95 – 100%.

My SpO2 tends to trend on the low side if “normal” probably due to my age (52), having mild exercise-induced asthma, and having had Mycoplasma pneumonia twice when I was younger…and possibly because I live/work between 2,500 – 3100′ (762 – 945 m) – above sea level (elevation gain lowers SpO2 “normal range” readings – but this last variable is probably negligible).

Then there is the error factor of ~2% for this type of pulse oximeter to factor in as well so my SpO2 level could have fallen anywhere between 92 – 100% during this test.

To all the anti-mask naysayers, doubters, and conspiracy theorists who say wearing masks will reduce your oxygen levels, my findings during this simple demonstration suggest the opposite.

My results suggest the following: Wearing a mask – be it a homemade cloth mask, a mass market multi-layer microfiber mask, or a professional respirator mask does not alter, impair, or reduce the flow of oxygen from the atmosphere into the mask-wearers lungs/bloodstream.

However, what wearing a mask does alter, impair, and reduce is the outward flow of the mask-wearers exhaled liquid respiratory droplets, and therefore, their fungal, bacterial, and viral contents (their nasty germs) contained within their exhaled liquid droplets.  In other words: it greatly reduces (depending upon the type of mask worn) the mask wearers germs, from getting out of them and/or into your body and infecting you or others with something you or they do not want – be it a common cold or COVID-19.

Wearing a mask is caring for others.

Note #1: If you wear the same mask for several days and let it become saturated with moisture, bacteria, viruses, fungal spores, etc. – deposits of moisture, dust, pollen, and possibly, mold, and bacterial colonies could accumulate/grow on the mask clogging up the pores in the fabric/filter thereby reducing airflow – and that in turn could potentially reduce the flow of oxygen. This is not the recommended or the smart way to use a mask – and it is just totally gross. To keep this possible outcome from happening – wash your mask with soap and water at the end of each day.  If your mask has filters, change them at the manufacturers recommended intervals.

Note #2: I am fully aware some people are not able to wear masks due to health conditions. This demonstration is not meant for those people.  This demonstration is for the heathy people who do not have conditions that negate wearing a mask.  This demonstration is for people who are otherwise healthy but for personal reasons are searching for “evidence” that supports their personal decision to not wear a mask.  Heath conditions that negate wearing a mask aside, choosing to not wear a mask for personal reasons is just incredibly self-centered, uncaring, and selfish.  If you are one of these people, if you are choosing to ignore the evidence and the facts, then please – do not be part of the problem and just stay home until all this is over.

Note#3: Oxygen atoms are far smaller than the weave of a homemade cloth mask, an N95, an N100, or even the very best medical or particulate/chemical protective respirator mask. If, in fact, properly fitted, and correctly used masks did block oxygen molecules as some are trying to claim – then all the mask-wearing doctors, veterinarians, dentists, health care workers, manufacturing plant workers, scientists, people painting cars/houses, sanding wood, firefighters, servicemen, police, and regular everyday people choosing to wear a mask to protect themselves and to protect you from them – would be passing out and dropping dead all over the place from lack of oxygen.  Those that survived their ordeal would quickly sling rapid-fire lawsuits at all the mask companies which would then fold. 

But this is not happening – why? Because oxygen atoms are far too small to be stopped by the fibers of any approved professional personal protective equipment mask, homemade cloth mask, bandana, scarf, or old t-shirt wrapped around your face.

Some good mask information from PBS Studios.

Unmasking mask myths.

Uncle Rob using fire and common sense to show how masks work.

How small are oxygen atoms?

Size comparison – remember a water molecule is made of both hydrogen and oxygen atoms – so oxygen atoms are very, very, very small.

Still confused on the sizes/scale of things – check this out.

Mask Update 2021: This is all still true to this day and I am still here and breathing just fine despite wearing masks in public places for over a year. I have also been vaccinated for COVID-19 and all the other expert-recommended vaccinations as well as Rabies.

Mask Update 2022: Again – I am still here and breathing just fine despite religiously wearing masks in all public places I have visited during this pandemic (when and where recommended by the CDC and common sense) – yet, despite the masks I still contracted COVID-19 in the spring of this year. However, it was not because the masks did not work. The source of my infection was traced back to my wife’s place of business where the virus hitchhiked in/on her and then jumped to me. Cross-contamination is a real bummer.

Lucky for us our cases were relatively mild thanks to our vaccinations – Yay Science!

Remember-

There is not democratic science.

There is not republican science.

There is only science.

Science does not take sides – please stop trying to make science political.

People take sides.

Science only seeks to reveal the how of things- it seeks only to find the evidence of what is true and then help us make better decisions on how to adapt to this thing called life.

Science will not dictate your path, it will only offer evidence and then suggest the best path you should take – it is then up to you to logically decide – based on the evidence at hand – which path to take.

Please choose wisely to support science over greed, control, and fear-focused politics and ancient dogma.

Support the findings and suggestions of science for a healthy, safe, and prosperous future.

The future is in our hands.

Please wear a mask.

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