Dave Wakeling I started checking out available fabrics early on because many in our peer support groups are on very fixed incomes. I wanted to determine which are the best mechanical filters that could be had inexpensively.
What I learned under my microscope most typical weaves of homemade material are about 0.3mm, or 1000 times bigger than the N95 at 0.3 micron. My mate at Los Alamos National Lab mapped a SEM of several coronaviruses which closely match the C19 dimension 0.125 micron, smaller than an N95 mechanical filter.
Initially, the C19 virus was considered airborne transmission thus even the N95 wasn’t effective. Then, the transmission vector was changed to aerosol, making N95 effective. This didn’t guarantee homemade masks would work against aerosol, though.
So next I wanted to determine droplet sizes (they aren’t one uniform dimension) and I wanted to determine if aerosol droplets could penetrate a 0.3mm weave. I had a nifty empirical way to do this.
Back in college I spent a month doing paleoclimatology coring in Antartica. There I met this Russian dude who collected snow crystals, and he had such a cool way of doing this. He’d take glass slides and coat them in a thin film of a salt that makes HF acid – this acid etches glass in small amounts, completely dissolves it in large amounts.
So what he’d do is let snow flakes land on his slide, warm them quickly to melt the snow which created water then HF acid, and bam, he had a perfect etching of the snow crystal. Genius.
I did something similar with aerosol spray from a cough and sneeze. Using 6 feet as the distance, I set up test glass plates coated in HF salt in my friend’s restaurant freezer (closed for good, sadly) and had volunteers snort small silicate fibers to induce sneezing. Coughs were manually emulated.
Their aerosol spray was recorded on the glass plates, after which I could measure area densities and droplet sizes. The range of droplet sizes was 1.5mm to 0.09mm… the latter smaller than the 0.3 weave. Not encouraging.
Next, we repeated with homemade masks to test penetration and compare to unmasked area density – this is to determine what percent of droplet penetration occurs.
Again, not encouraging. We found that 21% of sneeze droplets penetrated a 0.3mm weave, and the penetrative droplets averaged 0.12mm. So masks were letting through a lot of potentially infected droplets.
There was one more thing to check: How much flow volume occurred around the edges of a typical homemade mask, and how far did this flow travel from the sneeze source.
To do this, we set up the same experiment with treated glass plates normal to the face at the sides, bottom (floor), and top (ceiling). Result: 32% flow volume around the edges, all exhaled air completely unfiltered.
The thing is, this experiment is to determine aerosol filter efficiency, which is lousy. But if the original CDC assessment if airborne stood, then the efficiency is naught.
I said my original interest was finding efficient, cheap material for mental health peers on fixed incomes. What I discovered broke my heart.
And then the suicides started happening. As you know, depression worsens for many with isolation. Two times I tried to kill myself because of extended isolation from bipolar depression. And this is a commonality we talk about at our peer support groups. Lots of us have tried during depressive isolation. Shelter at home is isolation.
And then another commonality started cropping up. Peers felt isolated at the grocery store, Target, Home Depot… without seeing half of others’ faces, as many of us have shared with each other, it’s like walking and talking with mannequins. Zombie mannequins is how one mate tells it. Some peers feel lonelier in public than isolated at home because of the masks. Isolated at home, isolated in public. Bad for suicidal depression.
I had a mate tell me all of this, and he asked if we would have in person groupd again soon. This was in April. With paranoia he couldn’t attend our zoom groups, and he desperately needed live groups. They kept him alive, he said. I understood perfectly. My first group I attended on October 14, 2010, I gave myself the choice of trying a group or killing myself that night. And I made that choice for five weeks, every Thursday, until I no longer wanted to kill myself. And I kept going to group and at times over 10 years going to group and being with people who know what I feel becausè they feel the same… tbe group still keeps me alive.
My mate Alan. He almost begged for me to have live groups again. I haven’t shared this on social media and now is a good time to do so. I had cataracts in both eyes and the surgery was non-essential for two months so I couldn’t see and couldn’t work on finding a way to honor isolation mandates and mask mandates. I told Alan it was my number one priority when I got my eyes back. I promised to text him each and every day (first time I used speech to text!), and I did, and six weeks later after my surgery I learned I’d been texting a dead man for five weeks. Alan killed himself.
So why am I so critical of masks? Because in New Mexico suicides are 3 times higher than last year and it’s only September. And peers are isolated at home and are isolated in public. And forced masks are contributing to suicides.
And because homemade masks have no measurable preventative efficiency, for me this is killing peers for no worthy health reason. Plainly, people are dying who shouldn’t be.
We don’t need to be wearing masks.
I didn’t start out as a “anti-masker.” I started out wanting to help cash-strapped friends with mental illness. What Iearned is not what I wanted to learn. I used my science skills to independently test materials and came away … disappointed? Not strong enough.
My mate is dead and as I see it being forced to wear masks contributed directly.
How can I not speak up now? My friend of 6 years is dead. I’m hurt, I’m angry, and I feel vicious guilt because I could have done more, blind or not.
Dave, I know I’m difficult, brash, and sometimes obnoxious. I care a lot about people, though. After October 14, 2010, I started repurposing my life to help people with mental illness who needed a little more help than they could get themselves. I advised on important state legislstion, I developed training for the Albuquerque Police Department on deescalating peers in mental heaalth crisis because -no punches pulled – APD was shooting too many of us when all we needed was a ride to the hospital. And, my proudest deed, we have (had) in person groups across the city five days a week because it’s murder waiting a full week between groups for many of us.
Modesty be damned: The State of New Mexico honored me with a Lifetime Achievemebt Award in Behavioral Health Innovation at the age of 46 for my advocacy. I used that obnoxious streak to do what’s right instead of waiting to ask permission.
That’s more than I intended to share and because I’ve always admired how much you care about others I feel you’ll understand why I feel the way I do.
I’ll share a blog I wrote shortly after Alan died. It’s pretty raw and I wanted to get it down before I lost the passion.
About mechanical filter masks. There are misconceptions about how they work, where there is information they filter more going in than coming out, or the reverse. That’s unfortunately not the case. These masks are simple mechanical filters, not valves. I know people want to believe their mask is very protective in many ways, and it’s mainly placebo.
And I’d be okay with placebo masks … if forced masks weren’t leading to my friends killing themselves.
Last note: Back when I did more geology than mental health advocacy, I had to become very familiar with mechanical filter masks, working in underground uranium/vandium mines, superfund sites, etc. My personal health required I be MSHA trained on mechanical filter masks inclused a mining version of the N95.
Thanks for listening .