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How Useful Are Masks?
Here's a quick consideration for Albertans
For all of the people in Alberta right now that are being blanketed by thick smoke from the grass and forest fires raging in the northern parts of the province, I’ve got GREAT news for you!
Just mask up!
For everyone who was super comfortable wearing surgical masks to filter out COVID-19 viruses from the air, lets do a quick comparison of sizes between said viruses and the hydro-carbon particles assaulting your lungs right now.
Firstly, just a quick reminder of the size of an average COVID virus.
(For reference, ‘nm’ equals nanometer)
Upon analysis of negative-stained SARS-CoV-2 articles by electron microscopy, different researchers have had varying results, but the diameter of the virus has been found to range between 50 nm to 140 nm.
Sounds small. But how about the smoke particles people are surrounded by right now?
"Small particles of concern include 'fine particles' (such as those found in smoke and haze), which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less; and 'coarse particles' (such as those found in wind‐blown dust), which have diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers."
So wait a tick… what’s a micrometer in comparison to a nanometer?
“Nanometer: A nanometer is 1000 times smaller than a micrometer. 1 micrometer (μm) = 1000 nanometers.”
Sounds like the smoke particles outside right now are around 2,500 to 10,000 nanometers compared to a virus of between 50 to 140 nanometers.
So… if you were to be in Calgary and wear a mask outside right now, would you smell smoke through it?
Let me save you the effort. Yeah, you would.
Part of that is because of the fact that they simple don’t seal to your face, leaving gaps on average of:
“Because the actual leakage flowrate in each direction is difficult to measure, we use a Monte Carlo approach to estimate flow-corrected particle emission rates for particles having diameters in the range 0.5–20 μm.”
So, gaps between masks and faces have an average opening (in a well fit scenario) of between 0.5–20 micrometers when the average smoke particle is between 2.5-10 micrometers.
Besides that, if you ACTUALLY wanted to filter out smoke, you’d use a mask that had a charcoal filter and an airtight seal. You know, a mask that was designed for stopping smoke.
Here’s The Point
If you can smell smoke while wearing the masks that people self righteously demanded you wear in public spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19 viruses — the same viruses that are up to 200x smaller than the smoke particles you’re smelling through them — you should come to the awkward conclusion that 99% of the masks worn and mandated during the pandemic did LESS than what your mask is doing in Calgary right now to stop you from breathing the smoke.
But hey! If cognitive dissonance is enough to protect someone in their imagination during a pandemic, this is fantastic news for everyone choking on smoke right now.
~ Drew Weatherhead
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