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Horowitz: Why masks don’t work in the real world

Horowitz: Why masks don’t work in the real world

 There is not a single place on earth where masks appear even to have slowed the spread of the virus, which appears hell-bent on cutting through every population until the herd immunity threshold is met. None of this should have surprised us.


How many people do you know who always wear their masks fully clamped to their faces like a respirator? Well, there are very few people who can afford to pass out after hours of oxygen deprivation. That, in a nutshell, is why mask mandates are useless against a virus, even before we examine the fact that the pores in the mask fibers are much larger than the virus itself.

Stephen Petty, one of the most experienced certified industrial hygienists and exposure experts in the country, sent me the following chart based on new research on mask filtration (Drewnick, et al.). It demonstrates that if just 3.2% of the mask space is open, the efficacy of the mask goes down to zero!

As you can see, with just 2% of the mask area open, 80% of the particles under 2.5 microns will escape. Based on that study, Petty extrapolates that masks will be 100% ineffective in blocking any particles that small when the open area reaches 3.2%.

What people forget is that aside from the size of the pores in the fabric, very few people actually wear masks the way they test them in labs or on mannequins. As Petty points out, based on a new study of filtration leakage in masks from 44 different materials, most of the seepage comes out through the sides because the molecules always travel the path of least resistance.

"Measurements with defined leaks showed that already a small fractional leak area of 1–2% can strongly deteriorate total FE," concluded the German study published last October in Aerosol Science and Technology. "This is especially the case for particles smaller than 5 mm diameter, where FE dropped by 50% or even two thirds."

The study goes on to explain that because "surgical masks as well as cloth masks never have a perfect fit on the face," it is "one of the main reasons why in studies investigating filter efficiencies of masks under real life conditions for surgical masks" the efficacy is "significantly lower" than what we see with form-fitted N95s. It's also likely the reason why filtration studies in a lab show some degree of efficacy but not a single randomized controlled trial (RCT) has demonstrated efficacy of these masks against viruses, including 10 RCTs of the flu and mask-wearing, as well as the Danish study of mask use for COVID. Humans are not lab mannequins.

This is what everyone got wrong from day one, or perhaps what Fauci and others originally got right. The COVID conversation should have begun with minimum viable particle size under pressure, which for COVID-size particulates is .06 microns. 90% of exhaled particulates fall within the radically behaving particulate/airborne particulate range.

What that means is that once particles are well under 1 micron (smaller than most bacteria), they easily get through and around the mask, remain suspended in air for a long time, and travel indoors a lot farther than six feet. Once we learned that this virus was airborne and so small, it is simply impossible for masking and six feet to make a difference indoors.

Multiple virions can compose a single particle cluster and still fall well under that threshold. Thus, even if everyone wore masks properly, still enough virions would escape to essentially make mask-wearing nothing but theater, which is why we don't find any real-world evidence of masking helping at all, as cases surge in masked-up Michigan and decline to the lowest levels in a year in Texas and Mississippi.

My friend Emily Burns demonstrates this in a real-life example by exhaling cigarette smoke under a mask that was pretty form-fitted. As she noted on Twitter, cigarette smoke is less than 1 micron, which is the same size or larger than 99% of the virus-carrying aerosols.

In fact, brand-new research has shown that 90% of the virions of this virus are smaller than 0.3 microns. There are 100 times more aerosols under 1 micron (mostly significantly smaller) than over 1 micron. That is much smaller than the pores on surgical masks, much less cloth masks, not to mention the gaps around the masks.

What's more, the same study shows that at peak contagion around day seven of symptoms, with the inflammation of the alveoli, the number of particles under 0.3 microns increases tenfold, while the larger ones decrease. This likely explains why asymptomatic individuals barely spread and why masks are worthless when people are the most contagious.

We have been sold an illogical premise dressed up as science – that somehow masks do not protect you against inhaling someone else's virus, but they do protect others from your exhalation. That is the excuse given to force people who don't like masks to wear them, even though the people concerned about the virus are free to wear them if they think they work. However, while masks fail to work against a virus this small in both directions, if anything, they are even less likely to stop your exhalation of the virus than inhalation. As Emily Burns demonstrated in her video, with a KN95, which makes one feel like he is suffocating when inhaling, exhalation seems to flow easily through the gaps.

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