Heather Dawn: Godfrey. P.G.C.E., B.Sc. (Joint Hon)
It is over two years since COVID-19 hit the world stage. In spite of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 was downgraded and officially acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK Government (19th March 2020) as NOT being a ‘high consequence infectious disease‘, draconian measures to apparently control transmission of ‘infection’ persist, overtly and insidiously; lockdown and social distancing, including wearing of protective face masks, is now well and truly etched into our universal psyche, having been enforced amidst fear of an emerging life-threatening virulent virus.
Novel SARS-CoV-2 RNA and DNA modulating ‘vaccines’ (inoculations/injections) were developed at breath-taking speed and by the end of 2020 a universal inoculation programme was rolled out across the globe. While other proactive measures to prevent transmission of the virus have appeared to ease, the wearing of face masks and continual virus detecting tests continue to be required (alongside requirement/proof of ‘vaccination’) in numerous social settings, including schools, colleges, large entertainment venues, hospital, public transport – especially airlines – and some retail outlets; the onus of responsibility has simply transferred from government diktat to individual, business and organisations choice to continue to follow original preventative guidelines.
This article will focus on one of these preventative measures, that is the wearing of face masks, to determine safety and efficacy in terms of limiting the spread of viral infection. First, the process of breathing is described, then discussion about the validity of filtering inhaled and exhaled air by wearing mouth and nose coverings to prevent or inhibit respiratory viral transmission is discussed.
The lungs – breathing in, breathing out
The atmospheric, ambient air we breathe typically consists of around 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with the remaining 1% consisting of a combination of carbon dioxide, helium, methane, argon and hydrogen.
Breathing is the regular inflation (breathing in) and deflation (breathing out) of the lungs, which maintains a steady concentration of atmospheric gases in the alveoli; that is, simply, the constant intake of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide.
Air drawn into the lungs fills the alveoli and is momentarily held in suspension just long enough to facilitate gaseous exchange, before being exhaled from the lungs.
The walls of the alveoli and its capillaries are only one cell thick; they are semipermeable, thus enabling the process of diffusion. Diffusion is described as the movement of a substance (in this case, carbon dioxide and oxygen) from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration.
So, for example, oxygen, which is present in higher concentration in air breathed in and absorbed by the alveoli, diffuses down the concentration gradient through the walls of the capillaries within the alveoli to the blood. The blood then, in turn, carries oxygen in solution in blood water, and in chemical combination with haemoglobin (a blood protein) as oxyhaemoglobin (found in red blood cells), to tissues throughout the body – for example, organs, muscle, skin and so on.
Conversely, and at the same time, carbon dioxide, which is in higher concentration in the blood channeled to the lungs, passes in the opposite direction, that is, from the blood capillaries to the alveoli from where the carbon dioxide diffuses into the lungs, thence is exhaled with the outward breath into the external atmosphere. Some water is also excreted from the body within the breath during exhalation (observed on cold days in a cloud-like vapour issuing from nose and mouth).
Respiration: oxygenating cells
This process of gaseous exchange is repeated in cells; oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is excreted through diffusion (respiration). For example, diffusion occurs when oxygen, which is in higher concentration in the blood than in the cells and interstitial fluid around the cells, diffuses down the concentration gradient from capillaries to the cells; while at the same time carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of cell metabolism and is present in higher concentration in the cells and interstitial fluid, diffuses down the concentration gradient from the cells to the blood.
Carbon dioxide is transported within blood to the lungs by three different mechanisms:
Oxyhaemoglobin is an unstable compound and breaks up (dissociates) easily to liberate vital oxygen.
Factors that increase dissociation of oxyhaemoglobin include raised carbon dioxide content of tissue fluid, raised temperature and a substance known as 2,3-BPG present in red blood cells. For example, in active tissues there is an increased production of carbon dioxide and heat, which leads to an increased availability of oxygen (through diffusion). In this way oxygen is readily available to the tissues in greatest need.
Wilson & Waugh 1998
Exercise and physical activity supports gaseous exchange, increases cell oxygenation and promotes removal of waste material from cells, which includes carbon dioxide. Consuming sufficient water also supports cell cleansing and replaces water lost via the lungs through gaseous exchange, sweating, urinating and defecation.
Respiration creates the energy-producing chemistry (e.g. glucose) that drives the metabolism of the body and most living things. Thus, oxygen is vital to life. The body’s unencumbered ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste, including carbon dioxide, from cells, from the lungs, and from the process of digestion, is also vital to health, and ultimately, vital to life.
According to the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care, ‘in the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers nose and mouth; these may be cloth coverings or disposable coverings’. The aim of this advice is, apparently, not so much to protect the wearer but, rather, to protect other people, especially the elderly and physically vulnerable, against the contraction and spread of infection. This decree assumes the wearer is infected whether they display symptoms or not (asymptomatic).
But is wearing a mask in this context beneficial – for individuals and society? Does wearing a mask prevent the spread of infection?
Masks have been worn throughout history; to protect the face during battle; as decorative adornment during celebrations and rituals; to obscure identity; and to prevent inhalation of noxious fumes and pollution. During the middle ages, for example, plague doctors wore beak-shaped masks – the beak was stuffed with herbs and/or flowers to filter and dispel bad smells (miasma); bad odours were thought to be the vector of disease.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) proposed the notion of bacteria (viruses, which are nano particles even smaller than bacteria, were yet to be discovered) as an airborne contagion in 1861. His theory, that germs are the vectors of disease, however, was contested at the time by Antoine Bechamp (1816-1908). Bechamp believed that symptoms of disease are expressions of ‘outfections’ (Young 2021), rather than ‘infection’ – that is, instead of bringing disease to the body, bacteria are purposefully present at the site of disease to ‘clean up’ the terrain; in this case also, sweating, fever, headaches, muscles aches and pains, diarrhoea etc. are symptoms of outfection, that is,of the body ridding itself of toxic waste products.
Bechamp’s terrain theory, however, was rebuked, even ridiculed at the time, and he was labeled a ‘crank’ (Pontin 2018), his proposition summarily dismissed. Pasteur’s germ theory, on the other hand, prevailed, and readily gained private and public support. Pasteur’s notion that germs, invasive microscopic vectors of disease, are everywhere, consequently prompted greater attention to cleanliness and hygiene (hand washing, sterilisation of environments, wearing protective garments during medical procedures and so on). Consequently also, doctors prescribed wearing face masks during outbreaks of infection, epidemics and pandemics, in attempt/as a means to limit the spread of infection. Lace veils were worn by women during this era as a fashion accessory, but more significantly, to protect their lungs from harmful airborne particles (coal induced smog, smoke and dust).
Science, however, has moved on considerably since the nineteen hundreds. Today, electron microscopes enable insight into realms previously never imagined. So, what does modern science reveal about the efficacy of wearing face masks to prevent the infectious spread of viruses and germs?
Discussing respiration, Baruch Vainshelboim (2021) reminds us that (in his article Face masks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis):
It is well established that acute significant deficit in [oxygen] O2 (hypoxemia) and increased levels of [carbon dioxide] CO2 (hypercapnia), even for few minutes, can be severely harmful and lethal; while chronic hypoxemia and hypercapnia cause health deterioration, exacerbation of existing conditions, morbidity and ultimately mortality.
Emergency medicine demonstrates that 5–6 minutes of severe hypoxemia during cardiac arrest will cause brain death with extremely poor survival rates. On the other hand, chronic mild or moderate hypoxemia and hypercapnia, such as from wearing facemasks, results in shifts to higher contribution of anaerobic energy metabolism, decrease in pH levels and increase in cells and blood acidity, toxicity, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, immunosuppression and health deterioration.
In conclusion Vainshelboim states (read the full article here):
The data suggest that both medical and non-medical face masks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 – [this] supports against the usage of face masks. Wearing face masks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These [effects] include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress responses, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression, fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Long-term, wearing a facemask can cause health deterioration, developing and progression of chronic diseases, and premature death.
Our first intake of breath at birth is absolutely vital for ‘life’, followed closely by our need for fluid, then nutrients – ‘is he/she breathing?’ is the immediate concern for the new born infant entering the world; every single breath issued from that first moment sustains life, breath by breath, throughout life. The gaseous content and balance of the air we breathe is available to us at the perfect ‘pitch’ to sustain existence. Health of the organism is determined by the properties and qualities, primarily of the atmosphere, fluids and nutrients we consume (nutrients also includes thoughts, emotions, intentions etc.).
Face masks cover nose and mouth and interfere with the gaseous content and balance of air inhaled and exhaled and impede efficient respiration. For example, wearing a face mask reduces intake of vital oxygen by 15% and excretion of CO2 by the same amount, thus creates an acidic internal environment. (Young 2021) Face masks also increase the temperature and moisture retention between the face mask and skin, within nose and mouth cavities, and the lungs. They impede exhalation of toxins and waste products (including and other than CO2) excreted from fluids and tissues within the body. Yet, face masks do not impede inhalation or exhalation of infinitesimally small viral nano-particles, such as viruses. Further, bacteria and germ components (which are larger than virus particles) cling to the inner and outer surface of the (warm, moist) mask, thus, the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to grow and proliferate is created, increasing opportunity and propensity for infections of skin beneath the mask, mouth, nasal cavities and lungs to develop. (Vainshelboim 2021)
But, not all face masks are the same. MacIntyre et al (2015) conducted a randomised trial to evaluate the efficacy of wearing cloth masks compared to wearing medical mask in hospital healthcare workers. They found that ‘penetration of cloth masks by [micro] particles was almost 97% and penetration of medical masks, 44%’. Rates of infection (clinical respiratory infection, influenza-like illness and laboratory-confirmed respiratory virus) were higher in the cloth mask arm of the study. Neither cloth nor medical masks, however, prevented penetration. The authors warned that moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection, and cautioned against the use of cloth face masks.
Bae et al (2020) conducted a study to ascertain the ‘effectiveness of surgical and cotton masks in blocking SARS-CoV-2’ (COVID-19), concluding that neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered SARS-CoV-2 during coughs by infected patients; microscopic CV particles passed through both types of mask. They also acknowledged “we do not know whether masks shorten the travel distance of droplets during coughing, [suggesting] further study is needed to recommend whether face masks decrease transmission of virus from asymptomatic individuals or those with suspected COVID-19 who are not coughing.”
In another study, Sharma et al (2020) carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the efficacy of wearing cloth face masks to prevent coronavirus infection transmission. They conclude that ‘cloth masks have limited efficacy in combating viral infection transmission’; ‘efficacy of cloth face masks filtration varies and depends on the type of material used, number of layers, and degree of moisture in mask and fitting of mask on face’. Even so, in spite of acknowledging that cloth face masks offer inadequate prevention, they suggest that ‘cloth masks may be used in closed, crowded indoor, and outdoor public spaces involving physical proximity to prevent spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection’.
In short, face masks do not provide meaningful protection against viral infection, and compromise the immune system by inhibiting appropriate respiration. Face masks do not prevent transmission of viral (or other micro) particles, and are likely to create unfavourable conditions for the person wearing the mask (potentially leading to infection of the respiratory system and poor systemic function), especially when they, or other such coverings, are worn for long periods of time.
Face masks, however, are often used in industry, or when undertaking DIY activities, and may reduce inhalation of large particles, such as from dust (saw dust, dirt, fibres etc.), and moisture created by sprays (water, chemicals, paints etc.). Even so, the same health concerns apply as above, so frequent replacement with a new or clean face mask, ‘fresh air’ breaks, and limited duration of use, is a necessary and sensible precaution.
In the context of viral outbreaks, it appears to make greater sense to bolster and support the immune system (a healthy, fresh and varied diet and appropriate nutrition, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and vitamin D, and so on) rather than compromise health and natural resilience by directly inhibiting effective and efficient respiration, which results in toxification of the internal terrain and unnecessary burdening, thus weakening, of immune function. If a person is unwell and/or expresses symptoms of COVID-19, or any other corona virus or contagious respiratory infection, then self isolation, along with appropriate wellness care and, if necessary, medical care, until these symptoms desist, makes sense.
People wearing masks image: Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/andremsantana-61090/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=5306374″>André Santana AndreMS</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=5306374″>Pixabay</a>
Bea et al (2020) Effectiveness of Surgical and Cotton Masks in Blocking SARS-CoV-2: A controlled comparison in 4 patients. American college of physicians. Public Health emergency collection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7153751/
Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.
MacIntyre, C. R. et al (2015) A cluster randomized trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. British Medical Journal. Infectious Diseases. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577
Pontin, J. (2018) The 19th-Century crank who tried to tell us about the microbiome: Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/the-19th-century-crank-who-tried-to-tell-us-about-the-microbiome/
Sharma, K. S., Mishra, M., Mudoal, S. K. (2020) Efficacy of cloth facemask in prevention of novel coronavirus infection transmission: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Education and Health Promotion. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7497125/
Vainshelboim, B. (2021) Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis. PebMed.
Wilson, K. J. W.; Waugh, Anne (1998) Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness. Churchill Livingstone, London
Young, R. O. (2016) Who had their finger on the magic of life- Antoine Bechamp or Louis Pasteur? MedCrave online https://medcraveonline.com/IJVV/who-had-their-finger-on-the-magic-of-life—antoine-bechamp-or-louis-pasteur.html
Coleman, V. Dr. (2020) Proof that masks do more harm than good: Brand New Tube https://brandnewtube.com/watch/proof-that-face-masks-do-more-harm-than-good_5Ya8cJN5eCT3vqj.html