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If masks don't restrict oxygen flow, why does the air you breathe become stuffy?

It may surprise you to read this, but you can’t detect oxygen levels in the air around you. If a wave of nitrogen were to wash over you right now, pushing all the oxygen out of the room, you wouldn’t notice anything but the breeze. Your next breath would seem perfectly normal and fresh, and the first sign anything was wrong would be momentary weakness, possibly an unexplained increase of heart rate, then loss of consciousness. Then you’d die. The body monitors oxygen levels in the blood, but when it comes to the air, humans cannot detect oxygen. Instead, we are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide. You literally cannot tell the difference between breathing 100% oxygen and a gas containing 0% oxygen (though you can certainly detect the effects!) But you can easily detect a CO2 concentration of merely 0.5%.

Air containing half a percent of CO2 seems “stuffy.” Air containing 1% CO2 will generally motivate you to take action to change the situation. Air containing 5% CO2 is comparable to what you exhale, and while not an immediate threat for short duration exposure, will make you feel as if you are drowning, and may trigger panic or violent (or at least assertive) action to change things. When you are wearing a surgical or other face-hugging mask, the tiny amount of exhalation trapped inside the mask will remain and be diluted by a factor of 1 part in three or four hundred into the next breath. The difference in oxygen concentration will be almost too small to calculate, much less feel. The difference in CO2 concentration, while utterly and completely harmless, may barely rise (depending on the mask, altitude, and your physical size) to the level of detectability. The air will seem slightly stuffy, and you’ll breathe slightly deeper as a result. And no harm will come from it, no matter how long you wear the mask.

Content created and supplied by: LionKing_Simba (via Opera News )


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