Mask breaks carbon dioxide retention

Photo: Unsplash

Schools will allow mask breaks – due to fears of ‘carbon dioxide retention’

Advice shared by the Ministerial Advisory Committee suggests that ‘carbon dioxide retention’ is a main factor in recommending school mask breaks .

Mask breaks carbon dioxide retention

Photo: Unsplash

South African school pupils are likely to be given mask breaks ‘of up to 15 minutes’ when full-time teaching resumes in primary institutions this week. That’s because the Ministerial Advisory Committee has expressed concerns about the impact of ‘carbon dioxide retention’ for younger people wearing face coverings.

Carbon dioxide retention: What’s it all about?

As Times Live report, the mask break ‘entails going outdoors, removing face coverings, and breathing freely for a short period of time’. The MAC recommends that this takes place every two hours or so.

In April this year, a study from the BMC Institute for Infectious Diseases found that there are ‘significant concentrations of carbon dioxide’ in routinely used face masks. However, it must be stressed that these levels are acceptable for ‘short-term use’. The paper also concludes that ‘debate remains’ over just how high these CO2 numbers really are.

“Although a significant increase in CO2 concentrations are noted with routinely used face-masks, the levels still remain within acceptable limits for short-term use. Therefore, there should not be a concern in their regular day-to-day use for healthcare providers.”

“Use of face masks resulted in significant increases in CO2 concentrations. However, the increases in CO2 concentrations did not breach short-term (15-min) limits. Importantly, these levels were considerably lower than in the long-term. Whether increase in CO2 levels are clinically significant remains debatable.

BMC Institute for Infectious Diseases

Mask breaks: Primary schools reopen on Monday 2 August

On Monday, Primary Schools across the country were meant to operate at full capacity – but thousands of facilities say that it is simply ‘not possible’ to do this safely – even with social distancing requirements dropping from 1.5 metres.

It’s understood that the demand for all learners to be seated only one metre apart is still too much for some classrooms. Schools with large volumes of children in each learning group cannot accommodate everyone, and a large number of educational centres won’t be able to welcome all students back in one go.