Face masks unlikely to over-expose wearers to CO2, even those with COPD

Oct. 2 (UPI) — Most major health organizations, including WHO and the CDC, insist that mask-wearing helps slow the spread of COVID-19, but some critics contend masks can cause carbon dioxide poisoning by trapping CO2.

However, new research, published Friday in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, shows wearing a mask is very unlikely to cause carbon dioxide poisoning.

For the study, researchers measured changes in gas exchange — the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide — in both healthy individuals and veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, before and after donning face masks.

Because people with COPD must work harder to breathe, they can sometimes experience shortness of breath and exhaustion.

The latest tests showed mask-wearing had little to no effect on gas exchange in both healthy individuals and those with COPD.

“We show that the effects are minimal at most even in people with very severe lung impairment,” study author Dr. Michael Campos, pulmonologist at the Miami Veterans Administration Medical Center, said in a news release.

Researchers found no link between gas exchange changes and feelings of breathlessness. Feelings of breathlessness, researches contend, are likely caused by restriction of air flow during moments of greater exertion, such as walking up several flights of stairs.

To combat feelings of breathlessness, researchers recommend wearers slow down or briefly remove their mask if they’re at a safe distance from others.

The authors of the latest study stressed that wearing a face mask indoors, as well as outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible, is a vital strategy in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The researchers added that mask-wearing is especially important for people with lung disease, who are at a greater risk of severe illness.

“We acknowledge that our observations may be limited by sample size, however our population offers a clear signal on the nil effect of surgical masks on relevant physiological changes in gas exchange under routine circumstances (prolonged rest, brief walking),” researchers wrote in their paper.

“It is important to inform the public that the discomfort associated with mask use should not lead to unsubstantiated safety concerns as this may attenuate the application of a practice proven to improve public health,” they wrote.

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