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Masks Will Save Lives! (Fact Check: Mostly False)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Almost every MSM “expert” is loudly and proudly claiming that if you wear a mask in public, you’ll save lives. In fact, by wearing a mask, you are probably endangering your own life.


Before you tar and feather me, note that I am a physician. I do not play one on TV like Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx. I spent thirty-six years wearing a surgical mask on a daily basis. And it always felt so good to take it off when I left the operating room. I didn’t realize why until recently.

We wore masks in the OR because they were supposed cut down on wound infections from pathogens in our mouths. This turns out to be false. But when my partners were presented with the evidence that we should stop wearing masks, they demurred. Masks were still useful virtue signaling. And they all still ripped their masks off the moment they could.

Then Lincoln Park, New Jersey, police reported on a driver who passed out and crashed while wearing a mask. Low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels were blamed. As an anesthesiologist, this was right down my alley. So I did some grade school arithmetic informed by detailed knowledge of respiratory physiology.

Your lungs are attached to airways that conduct nice fresh air into the alveoli (air sacs). The trouble is that some of that fresh air never gets to the lungs to do its job because it’s in that “anatomic dead space.” And when you breathe out, you fill that dead space with used air, so that’s the first air back in. (The physics of fluid flow is a bit more complicated, but you get the picture.) In your next resting (tidal) breath, you have to start with old air, then get fresh air, and then fill the dead space as you move that fresh air into the alveoli. For a “standard” 150 pound adult, the numbers look like this (ignoring water vapor, which makes it worse).


Normal tidal breathing

Tidal volume (resting breath)                   500 milliliters

Subtract stale dead space                      -150 ml

Subtract end-tidal dead space                -150 ml

            Net fresh air                                  200 ml

If you’re wearing a close fitting mask (surgical, cloth, N95) the picture changes because that mask will not allow free exchange of air with the room. If we assume that the volume between your face and the mask is 50 ml, then this volume becomes a mechanical addition to your anatomic dead space. (Before you skewer me, remember that this discussion involves a daily issue in my medical practice for 36 years.) The numbers look like this.

Tidal breathing with close fitting mask

Tidal volume (resting breath)                   500 milliliters

Subtract stale dead space                      -200 ml

Subtract end-tidal dead space                -200 ml

            Net fresh air                              100 ml


Not good. It’s much like breathing in the paper bag to get your CO2 up when you’ve been hyperventilating. But this time you started at normal and added the paper bag, which has 16% oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide instead of 21% oxygen and 0% carbon dioxide. Your CO2 starts at normal and goes up. Your O2 starts at normal and goes down. Now you are smarter than Facebook’s fact checker. But what should we expect from a “journalist” who’s trained in “political science?”

What happens with low oxygen? You get air hunger and breathe harder unless you’re one of the ten percent with Altitude/Mountain Sickness, which lets your oxygen keep falling. Air hunger isn’t comfortable, and getting that mask off relieves it. High CO2 also creates air hunger. It dilates blood vessels in the brain, causing the headache so many mask wearers complain about. At high levels it can cause drowsiness, which is probably why that lady in New Jersey served up a sheet metal salad.

If the only thing that masks did was cause headaches, we might write them off as worth the trouble. But we already know that they don’t do anything to protect us from getting sick. That alone should be enough to reject them. But the two types of mask that supposedly filter out bad stuff – N95 and cloth – can give you Wuhan Flu. You heard me right.

Go to your air conditioner and pull out that filter you forgot to change two months ago. The front side is covered with gray stuff. Now turn it over. Do you see all that crud coming out the back to fill your ducts with mold? That’s your face mask, just bigger. N95s, cloth masks, and your A/C filter are “depth filters.” When they get full, crud “spills over” to the back side where you are. If that crud is SARS CoV-2, then you just got more virus exposure than walking into the ICU without any PPE at all.


N95s take a while to load up, but they still have to be discarded or re-sterilized at least daily. Cloth masks are worse. They let up to 97% of virus particles through. The other 3% take up residence on the fibers, accumulating as the day goes on. You can wash a fabric mask, and your eight dollar N95 can be cleaned by hanging it out in sunlight for a couple of hours. Solar UV works wonders. But how many people are going to do any of those things?

Why does the CDC still pound the table with the idea that we should all wear face coverings? When you read the literature, and then examine the CDC website, one thing jumps out. Every pro-mask author brushes aside all the negative data with “masks may help.” MAY help. This is wishful thinking. The data that they will help doesn’t exist.

In the scientific literature, this would be called a “Class D” recommendation. It is “expert opinion,” supposedly based on first principles. When there is no literature support, professional society guidelines will normally state that “expert opinion suggests… but we can make no recommendations.” Properly understood, this means, “We have no opinion.”

But the basketball player and scarf queen seem very adamant that we should wear masks. One must ask why they are so sure. Since nothing either one has recommended has been correct, it seems that they have decided that virtue signaling will keep their fifteen minutes of fame going. They have chosen a “Scientific Wild-Assed Guess” as their foundation.


It’s time to cut America free from the shackles imposed by a “scientific” priesthood of bureaucrats.

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