It may be safer for school kids to stay maskless in classrooms

Source:  Livemint

About the CDC Guidelines:

US Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance to encourage reopening by giving schools more flexibility on classroom safety. So the question isn’t whether schools should open. It’s what mitigation measures they should take when they do.

The flashpoint of the guidelines is regarding masks. CDC guidelines continue to recommend masks for unvaccinated students and staff. But, critics respond that masks are harming children. So, the risk of carbon dioxide inhalation needs to be studied in depth.

Benefits of masks:

  • At one time, the argument for masks was mainly that they kept the wearer from infecting others, but now evidence of their protective benefits is plentiful.
    • Evidence suggests that indoors, particularly when ventilation is poor, masks help prevent viral spread.
    • A literature review published last year in The Lancet found that wearing either surgical masks or similar cloth masks reduced exposure by around two-thirds.
New research regarding CO2 emission inside masks:
  • Six European researchers, measured CO2 levels in the air inhaled and exhaled. They took readings without face masks, then with face masks of two different types: surgical masks and filtration masks.
  • The carbon dioxide content of the air inside the masks—the air being inhaled—was about 13 times what previous research suggests is safe. The youngest children had the highest values of CO2, with one 7-year-old child’s carbon dioxide level measured at 25,000 ppm. Those figures are for three minutes.
  • Criticism of study:
    • The sample size is small. Moreover, the experiment was performed in a laboratory; it’s not a study of similar cohorts in the real world.
    • At least a part of the CO2 buildup might be attributable to the nervousness of children who knew themselves to be experimental subjects.
Other research studies regarding CO2 emission inside masks:
  • Similar studies published earlier in the pandemic already pointed to potentially higher CO2 levels among healthcare workers who wore protective equipment for long periods of time. Because the workers are re-breathing the same CO2 they’ve previously exhaled. The masks seem to be trapping what the lungs are trying to get rid of.
  • Other studies have found similar problems in adults

If the average school day is six hours long, the children would be masked for close to 360 minutes. It’s odd that this issue has had so little public discussion. So before drawing dramatic conclusions and reopen schools, the CO2 emission inside masks needs a careful study.

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