Do masks restrict your breathing?

Warning! Math coming your way!
I wanted to dispel a common claim that masks disturb breathing.

A coronavirus particle is 120 nanometers (nm) in diameter. Oxygen is 0.120 nm and Carbon Dioxide is 0.232 nm. To interpret these numbers very clearly, oxygen is 1000 times SMALLER than the coronavirus particle and carbon dioxide is 517 times SMALLER than the coronavirus. Meaning that in the same little hole that one coronavirus might be able squeeze through, 1000 oxygen molecules can get in and 517 carbon dioxide molecules can get out.

The pore size in N95 masks is generally 100 to 300 nm. Meaning the average single pore will allow 1667 oxygen molecules in and 862 carbon dioxide molecules out.  Other masks like surgical or cloth masks have even higher pore sizes. Therefore, it is not mathematically sound to say that that a mask restricts oxygen or carbon dioxide flow. In fact, it is impossible. It doesn’t mean that the wearer does not feel restricted (psychological effect), however, the math and physics are not consistent with that feeling.

So why wear a mask? The good news is, you don’t have to worry about the 120nm coronavirus particle itself because the virus collects together in larger droplets from your respiratory tract. The average size of the droplets is 1000 nm. And a mask is quite effective at blocking the droplets you are exhaling, coughing, or sneezing. So, the mask prevents the droplets from your mouth and nose from going anywhere past the mask, thereby leaving no SARS-CoV-2 particles in the air for someone else to inhale.

So woo hoo! By mask wearing, you can breathe freely AND keep you respiratory droplets to yourself. It’s like magic! Except it’s really just math.

We have the ability to end the pandemic in 4-6 weeks if everyone would wear a mask 100% of the time in public! AND we could all get back to our lives of going to the restaurants we love, traveling, going to the beach etc. so the economy would recover much sooner IF WE ALL JUST WORE MASKS!

Wear a mask, save a life. Maybe also your own. And please share the math!

Love, Dr. Yang