Yes, I am posting this one twice – it is that important.
In the early summer of 2020, as the world went into lockdown during the early days of the SARS CoV-2 (Corovavirus/COVID-19) global pandemic – I noticed many individuals declining to wear masks stating personal reasons and evidence-lacking “reasoning” as to why they would not comply with the recommendations of infectious disease experts all over the planet.
I also noticed several stories of different scientists testing masks to show how they were effective in reducing the spread of respiratory droplets/aerosols between people therby reducing the spread of the potentially deadly virus (as well as far less deadly but yet still annoying viruses such as the common cold).
I decided to perform a similar mask test for my students in my science education classes.
To do this I acquired some Petri dishes (from an Amazon supplier), then – with the mask off and a petri dish held at arm’s length – I coughed, sneezed, sang, and yelled at the open dishes. I then put on a two-layer cotton face mask and repeated the demonstration using a new petri dish. I labeled the dishes and let them incubate for a few days in a warm area – I did not have an incubator at the time but it was June so it was warm in the classroom, therefore – growth happened…LOTS of growth, far more than I expected…it was really gross and it smelled really funky.
The odd thing was that, while the dish that was exposed to my respiratory droplets/aerosols without a mask did in fact have more colonies of growth – so did the plate I had coughed on while wearing a mask. At first, it appeared that the mask did little to stop the spread of respiratory droplets.
I wrongly assumed the error was in the growth media of the Petri dishes so I acquired some new dishes (Amazon) with the same growth media used by many of the other researchers – 5% sheep’s blood – and I repeated the demonstration. This time I also added a table and placed several dishes out at .3, .9, and 1.5M (1′, 3′, and 6′) in an attempt to show how droplets travel outward from the body.
Again, the results were the same – not much difference between masked and unmasked.
I was perplexed.
I compared my results to the others and came to the only possible conclusion: my samples had been contaminated by the classroom environment. The natural dust and dirt on our feet, bodies, and hair that the students and I bring inside with us from the nearby forest and garden, our sloughed off human skin cells and hair, animal/bird dander (we have several free-range chickens), the fact that the building is an old log cabin. Along with all this fun with particulates – the classroom is host to many different species of reptile, amphibian, fish, arachnid, and sometimes even an Opossum. Then there are the billions of free-floating fungal spores and pollen grains from the forest all around us as well as the occasional wandering house fly or gnat – and all the fun little friends that hitchhike on their feet and faces. All these contaminants and contaminant vectors were, well – everywhere. So, my first two experiments were contaminated by the nature of nature.
What to do? How could I reduce the natural contamination factor of my classroom environment to produce a more un-contaminated result? A room air filter you say? Yes, I already had one of those – a big one. Obviously, it could only do so much.
Since it would be next to impossible to make my classroom free of natural contaminants – the only option was to build a Cleanroom to rule out some of the contamination in the hopes of obtaining a better result – so, that is what I did.
The video below shows the results of my efforts and I hope it serves to demonstrate the how and the why of why masks work and why it is important to wear them during a global pandemic. Watch to the end if you are interested in learning how I built the Cleanroom.
This video is long because I choose to be thorough and transparent. To demonstrate this requires procedure and patience. If you are in a hurry and want to bypass all the “meat” of the video and go directly to my findings – then feel free to do so by skipping ahead to the time index of 39:17
One of the most important things I have learned over my over 1/2 century of life on planet earth – is how incredibly important the methods, tools, and findings of science, (and engineering, and technology) are to my very existence – and to the existence of everyone who is reading these words.
Without the discoveries, methods, and tools of science, we would still be living in the “dark ages” surrounded by filth, sickness, decay, and death. In all likelihood, many of us would not be living at all because our very lives, and the lives of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and possibly even farther back – have been saved and or supported many times over by the findings, tools, and methods of science. How have I come to this conclusion you may ask? The answer is in the evidence I see all around me and in what I know best – my own life story, so I will use my story as an example.
July 1968. I was born. I was a bit premature yet I am alive and healthy today, why? Because doctors, medical science and engineering, and life support technology saved my helpless, somewhat premature-born life and therefore, I was able to begin my growth and development.
I was never sickened or harmed/disabled/disfigured or rendered into compost by deadly diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, polio, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies…why? Because my parents listened to the medical professionals and had me – and my pets – vaccinated when we were young pups. They listened to the science that supports the evidence that vaccinations work, they protect us, our food, and our companion animals (and therefore again – us) from the hordes of microscopic infectious invaders that only seek (but not desire) to cause us harm (but not intentionally) for only their own uncaring, unthinking, benefit – the continuation of their life cycle and their species.
Ask almost any person older than 60 alive today and they will tell you the only thing vaccines cause is healthy adults, long life, and grey hair.
In light of current anti-vaccination related events I feel that I must expand on this subject a bit.
For the moment, put aside your preconceived notions – good or bad – about vaccinations and just think about the thousands of times a week you come in contact with other people and their human residue – their exhaled breath and flatulent out-gassings wafting on slight breezes, their constantly shedding germs that become the floating motes of the melting pot of humanity before joining forces with the minuscule bits and pieces of everything else to become a microscopic menagerie of human/floral/faunal/bacterial/fungal/viral/chemical and technological atmospherically delivered effluent that – with the help of your need to breathe to live – finds its way into the tacky folds of your nasal cavity before paying a visit to the fragile, warm, humid depths of your oh so sensitive lungs.
How many times do you ride in a friend’s car, a public bus, train, taxi and share this air with others?
How often do you open a door by grasping the handle – what grimy, nose, and buttocks picking, crotch-grabbing, bipedal naked ape fondled that handle only moments before you did? Where had they been? Who had they been with? Exactly what form of nasty had they been doing only moments before? Did they wash their hands after they did whatever or whomever they did? Did they just blow or wipe their snotty, runny, dripping, mucus, and booger-filled nasal cavity and then use their soiled paw to grab the doorknob/fuel pump handle that you just grabbed moments after them!?! Is that why it was sticky when you touched it?!!?
How often do you ride in the confines of an elevator/subway/taxi/Uber/Lyft/handsome cab with strangers? How often do you use rental bicycle, Lyme or Bird electric scooters? When was the last time you used an escalator or elevator? When was the last time you pumped gas or used an EV charging station? How often do you visit a public toilet? How often do the others visiting that toilet wash their hands…how often and how well do YOU wash your hands after touching your face, your genitals, and/or excreting your bodily waste products? How often do they/you then walk out into the restaurant and grasp the serving spoon on the buffet line – I shudder at the thought…
When was the last time you shared space with a friendly stranger in a coffee shop, a restaurant, bar, airplane, cruise ship? Where were they from? Did they just come from a trip to a highly populated city where they visited a crowded street market or maybe even a “bushmeat” vendor or “wet market?” Did they just come from a tour of duty doing humanitarian work in disease, war, or climate refugee camps on the other side of the planet? Did they just come from an ultra-orthodox anti-vaccination community on the other side of town? How would you know? They may be really interesting and very nice but now you are inhaling the air they just breathed out, and you are in-taking a portion of their germs – wherever they picked them up – yikes. How many times per day/week/month/year are you exposed to countless invisible invading armies of microorganisms that have been evolving alongside humans and the animals they hunt, eat, or keep as pets for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years? I am sure the numbers are truly staggering.
Food for thought from the Mythbusters.
The good thing for you my friend is this: evolution gifted you with an incredible immune system and it is constantly at work in the background protecting you from a large percentage of the armies of microscopic invaders that you are constantly assaulted by from all sides, surfaces, foods, beverages, strangers, friends, family, pets and even wild animals. Without your immune system doing its job, you and I would have passed away long ago. However, even though our immune systems are very good at what they do, sometimes an infectious agent comes along that beats our defenses and sickens us. Our immune systems then go into overdrive and eventually destroy the invader, remember it, and hopefully, we are never sickened by that particular baddy again. Then there are the germs that are hell-bent on the all-out destruction of their host. Germs that your body has little defenses to overcome. The high-yield nukes of the germ world. To fight these bad guys your body needs a little outside support from science, it needs some training in how to identify and fight these new enemies so when they try to get in again the immune system will remember them and be able to fight them off effectively without making you severely ill. This is where the science of vaccines come in. The fact that your parents (hopefully) chose to trust science and have you vaccinated when you were a young child now allows your silent army of immunity to quietly and quickly identify and fight off the invaders, therefore, allowing you to carry on with life as usual – blissfully protected and unaware of the microscopic turf wars going on inside your own body.
However, if you are not vaccinated, I wish you only the best of luck – but luck will not fully protect you – only science and common sense will. So please, use some common sense, wise up, and go get some science and go get yourself vaccinated!
In fact as I write these words (early fall 2019) only a few hours ago I received my Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccination and yes, a few weeks before that I received my Influenza vaccination.
Yep, I am “vaxxer” 100% – and I am alive, healthy, and have gray hair in part because of it. I trust vaccines, I trust the medical professionals who invented them, I trust the professionals who administer them, and I trust the science behind why they work.
Why do I trust them?
1 – I trust them to protect me from the uncaring microscopic nasties that “want” nothing more than to use my body as an incubator for their offspring and then use me as an unaware, robotic-zombie-like delivery system to spread more sickness, pain, suffering, and death to all those around me…
2 – I trust them to protect me from the “anti-vaxxers.” The unthinking, irrational, the dangerously overly skeptical, and often conspiracy “theory” following, FUD spreading, individuals who choose to NOT trust medical science and then choose to NOT receive their vaccinations for themselves and for their offspring. These individuals are intentionally making very bad choices that make life much more hazardous for themselves, for their families, their friends, and for all of the other humans beings they come in contact with – directly and indirectly.
These anti-vaxxers either lack accurate knowledge, are resistant to facts, or they may lack the common sense and the highly developed critical thinking skills to understand that getting a vaccine will protect you and your loved ones from some of the nastiest, ugliest, most harmful, painful, diseases that have been all but eradicated since the invention of modern medicine. Diseases that are sadly making a comeback because of the bad choices of a small number of uninformed and/or irrational individuals.
3 – I trust them to NOT “give” me autism. Vaccines do not cause, give, or instigate autism. That is a myth perpetuated by Andrew Wakefield and his followers and they have no verified evidence to support their erroneous, fabricated claims.
Your future is in your hands and, if you are vaccinated – it is also in your bloodstream.
Being vaccinated I now feel a bit like a superhero with a force field around me – a force field of immunity driven and augmented by the findings of science!
Come at me now ugly germs – my immune system is armed and ready and you don’t stand a chance.
That brings us to today, and now there is COVID-19 to be concerned about. Luckily, just a few days ago I received my first COVID-19 vaccination (see next photo) and soon will receive my second and will join the millions of people all around the world who are working together with science to fight this new deadly viral scourge.
Next,more food for thought – this time, on Tetanus and what it does to the human body.
If you are still questioning how vaccines work check this out:
Speaking of germs and sickness, I am not free from all of them – no one is. In fact, we need our germs, the good ones, to keep us functioning and healthy – this is our Microbiome. Science is discovering that our microbiome is a huge part of our health and when your microbiome is suppressed or unhealthy due to stress, imbalance, or illness it can lead to other more life threatening conditions and infections.
I had have had many of the common – and some uncommon – ailments and issues that attack humans everywhere. Mononucleosis, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, many episodes of allergy-induced acute and chronic sinus infections, exercise-induced asthma, labyrinthitis, and reoccurring eczema-like skin conditions – all these conditions and situations could have developed into more serious conditions (and/or even death) had I not been given professional medical care and treatments, medications, professional recommendations, and allergy immunotherapy that combated all of the previously mentioned ailments bringing me back to a state of nominal health. So yet again, that branch of science we call medicine and those scientists we call doctors came to the rescue of this blood, bone, and meat-filled sack that I pilot around the planet daily and refer to as my body.
It is important to note that none of the before mentioned conditions were caused by my childhood vaccinations – or any other vaccination. They were products of my genetic susceptibility coupled with my childhood exposure to infectious viral, fungal, and bacterial organisms that are not dangerous enough to have a vaccine…yet. These germs – AKA the common cold and other similar yet rather mild infections – were shed by others around me while I was in school and I was infected by them but recovered using my natural immunity. However, how many times was I exposed to more virulent and destructive microorganisms lurking in the public environment of school, church, summer camp, the movie theater, the beach, the birthday party, the mall, etc…? Organisms that would have rendered me dead or disfigured had I not been vaccinated and therefore protected from those nasty little armies of vampiric little buggers that are only out to invade and use our warm, moist, meat-robot, bodies as incubators for their multitudes of dastardly little offspring…we may never know. But I do know that I owe my long, healthy life to those thousands of doctors and scientists who worked tirelessly to develop, perfect, and administer those life-saving vaccines and other medications – and to my parents who opted to have me vaccinated as any good parent would and should do.
Then there were the environmental and chemical irritants and pollutants that I was exposed to over my younger years. These irritants came to me in the form of “natural” pollen, dust, and dander while the pollutants came in the form of household chemicals and agricultural chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other chemicals that were used by my family in our house, greenhouses, and on our farmlands. I was a child and had no knowledge that the toxic soup of chemicals I was being exposed to on a daily basis was harming my health via the oils, particulates, and VOCs I was inhaling as well as taking in through direct contact. My parents had no knowledge these chemicals were potentially harmful as it was the early-mid 1970’s and many of these chemicals were only just beginning to be used on a large scale so their impacts on human and wildlife health were not yet known to science. As a child, I was also exposed to even more diffuse/concentrated chemical pollutants that were the toxic by-products/emissions from fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the form of lawnmowers, tractors, old inefficient cars, and diesel school busses which, at the time, had limited to none of the emissions controls required today. Then there were the local energy generation operations – all of which were coal-fired at the time. These fossil fuel emission-based toxic atmospheric pollutants, combined with the chemicals and natural irritants I had been exposed to earlier in life, worked together to compound and exacerbated the damage to my young respiratory and immune systems resulting in the conditions that I suffer with to this day.
These allergies, sinus, skin, and other health conditions are now mostly non-existent but the ones that do occasionally resurface can be mitigated with the peer-reviewed recommendations from my doctors and their methods, tools and findings of medical science. Yay science!
Not that long ago I was possibly exposed to the Rabies virus while rescuing an injured animal. I quickly received a preventative Rabies vaccination series, and I am still alive and healthy – and now have a higher than your average human’s resistance to Rabies – again – yay science!
Later, I developed appendicitis – had my faulty appendix removed – and live on to this day. Again – yay science!
Then there was the time I was accidentally bitten by a wild Timber rattlesnake. I took an ambulance ride to the hospital, received antivenin (anti-venom), and made a full recovery. Yep, science yet again. Take a look at the video below if you are interested in my rattlesnake bite misadventure.
My point here is this: without science – I may not have been born and I would have died or been disfigured many times over.
Without science, I would not be telling you the story of my life so you can hopefully use my insight to help you make good choices for your life.
For all these reasons and so many more I choose to trust science.
If you are still here, and you are interested in what was going through my brain on the day I received my first COVID-19 vaccination – then feel free to watch the next video. It is my long-winded commentary on the value of science ending with my first COVID-19 vaccination.