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Are breathing masks dangerous for children?
April 22, 2020 08:02 pm
Breathing masks lead to increased absorption of carbon dioxide and moisture as well as the accumulation of germs. This makes them particularly dangerous for children, according to anonymous warnings. Is that correct?
By Wulf Rohwedder, tagesschau.de (German TV)
Harmful carbon dioxide collects under respiratory masks, which can lead to respiratory paralysis, especially in children. In addition, they would retain moisture and germs that would collect in the lungs - a pediatrician had also confirmed this. These and similar anonymous claims are currently widely used on social networks, especially on WhatsApp.
Air exchange must not be hindered
Can breathing masks really filter out and retain carbon dioxide (CO2)? The gas is a natural product of metabolic processes in the lungs: the inhaled air contains about 20 percent oxygen. When the gas is exchanged in the lungs, atmospheric oxygen is absorbed by the red blood cells and carbon dioxide is released into the breathing air. As a result, the exhaled air contains only about 17 percent oxygen, but four percent carbon dioxide.
If you hinder the exchange of air, for example by tying a gas-tight bag over your head and tying it, the oxygen content would continue to drop and the proportion of carbon dioxide would increase accordingly.
Carbon dioxide is not blocked
However, this effect does not exist in breathing masks: carbon dioxide molecules are much too small to be held back by breathing masks. Even masks of the highest protection class FFP3 can only retain particles up to a size of 0.6 micrometers, which is 0.0006 millimeters. However, a carbon dioxide molecule has a diameter of 3.24 angstroms, i.e. 0.000000324 millimeters. It is almost 2000 times smaller and therefore passes the masks without any problems. Therefore, carbon dioxide can only be separated from the air with highly complex special filters.
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In addition, the air volume under the mask itself is very low and is in constant exchange. The body also reacts very quickly with warning signs of excessive levels of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe, as the research portal Mimikama writes. Only masks that close off the face area and thereby hinder the exchange of air are potentially dangerous, for example certain snorkel masks if they are used as breathing masks for other purposes.
Hygiene is important
Respirators with owls, dinosaurs, llamas and monkeys Image source: AFPgalerie Without proper use and care, masks can be harmful - for both children and adults.
It is correct that condensed water can collect in the masks and that germs can also colonize. Professional masks therefore have a defined maximum wearing time. With makeshift masks, it is all the more important to comply with hygiene rules: after use, for example, they should be washed at least 60 degrees, put in the oven at 80 degrees for ten minutes, or ironed. Placing on dirty surfaces should be avoided as well as frequent touching of the masks
— Without proper use and care, masks can be harmful - both in children and in adults.