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Using a simple experiment with one subject wearing an N95 mask, the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory tested total volatile organic compounds (TVOC's), carbon dioxide levels, temperature, relative humidity, and microbial concentration in the micro-environment in and around the mask worn by the subject. When compared with the surrounding indoor air environment, the lab found within the mask increased levels of TVOC's (76%), carbon dioxide (459%), humidity (80%) and temperature (10%). Microbial concentration (Staphylococcus epidermidis) was tested within the mask before and after the subject wore it during the experiment, resulting in a post-wearing increase of 110%.
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"Our experiment suggests wearing a mask has both advantages and limitations," said Rajiv Sahay, PhD, FIAS, CIAQP, chief science officer of Pure Air Controls Services and director of its Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory. "The effects of breathing elevated levels of carbon dioxide are well known and could have health implications. Increased temperature and humidity levels could lead to microbial growth. It's impossible to draw any direct conclusions, but it certainly calls for additional comprehensive, scientific studies on the topic."
The science around the use of masks by the public is growing rapidly to prevent spread of COVID-19. In this context, Pure Air Control Services evaluated the microenvironment around a mask worn by a randomly selected individual to understand its impact. The experiment examined the primary load of supporting factors in and around a mask to understand the correlation of wearing a mask and an individual's health and hygiene.
Because the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted through respiratory secretions and contaminated air and surfaces, the CDC and other government agencies have emphasized mask wearing. Wearing a mask helps avoid breathable pollutants or contaminants such as viruses, mycoplasma, bacteria, fungi or mold, pollen grains, plant trichomes, insect bio detritus, protozoan cysts, plant and animal borne spores and other organic and inorganic particulate matter.
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Dr. Sahay said focusing solely on the benefit of mask wearing without considering the associated risks or consequences can potentially result in adverse health implications to the wearer. He encouraged carefully balancing the benefits of mask wearing by mitigating the associated risks.
About Pure Air Control Services
Pure Air Control Services is a nationally recognized indoor air quality (IAQ) firm headquartered in Clearwater, Florida. Since 1984, it has provided IAQ services to governmental agencies, educational institutions, commercial properties, energy engineering firms and other mechanical contractors. To learn more, please visit https://pureaircontrols.com/
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