Facemask Folly

Just stood beside a fellow sidewalk traveller who was wearing a facemask. Why would facemasks be necessary for pedestrians in Melbourne’s CBD? Diesel soot allergy perhaps? Fear of stray air-borne pathogens? Flu? Swine, Avian, Common? I was more interested on this occasion with the design of the facemask. This particular one, with the blue central patch facing outwards covered by plastic and a pale inner side that is in contact with the face. These are known as ‘surgi-masks’ and are designed to prevent contamination of the patient by the surgeon and not vice-versa. In spite of this purposeful design, during the recent Swine Flu epidemic world wide, millions of people took to wearing this type of mask in the mistaken belief that that they were in some way protecting themselves from infection. This design of mask seals very poorly with the contours of the face and is really only to prevent gross contamination of the surgical patient via coughing and sneezing on the part of the surgeon as they lean over their work. The majority of the air inhaled by the wearer of the mask does not pass through, indeed, cannot pass through, the pores of the mask, which incidentally are not small enough to prevent the passage of viral particles in any case.  The plastic outside layer prevents all air flow forcing the wearer’s expiratory material to go around the side. Perhaps these masked pretenders are really only trying to protect others from their own contagion? No, if you want protection in that way you have to don the full breathing apparatus with its filtered full flow ventilation capacity. This will add around 15 kilograms to the shopping and set the snufflepuss back by at least 10 thousand AUD. Have I answered my own question?

Don’t suppose any of this logic would influence the people’s choice however.

Dr. Biorat

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