Paul’s first test of the effects of cloth masks on O2 levels

Eh, let’s skip the debates and go straight to the testing – the claim is that your blood O2 levels get lowered and carbon dioxide builds up causing damage or you faint, or have neurological side effects, or that if you’re not healthy wearing a mask is just too hard. Easy test with an SpO2 sensor.

TL;DR – no negative effects, ending SPo2 higher than beginning.

People in Oregon on a local Facebook group my wife reads were complaining at wearing masks when it’s under 75… checked the thermometer and it was 92 in Nashville when I decided to do this.

You probably don’t know my medical history, but the TL;DR version is I’m 47, at least 40 pounds overweight, have a well documented history of breathing problems which historically included more inhalers than I could shake a stick at, have a CPAP because my body wants to give my throat a loving hug every night and choke me to death, I’ve got a little under a two year stint at an allergy clinic I had to abandon because among other things I was having issues breathing after twice weekly shots, and I could probably produce enough documentation if there ever was a medical mask card required to not wear a mask.

I happen to have a blood oximeter I purchased for my youngest back in 2016 because, well, evidently breathing problems are in the genes and after the second hospital visit where she had turned blue and colorblind me couldn’t see her skin color was wrong, decided to invest in tech. I’ve put it up against a professional one just because I was around them more than I needed to be. It was generally right within a percentage of hospital grade.

Armed with this, a two ply cloth mask, and what Google claimed was an 89 degree test environment by the time I managed to get everything together, I decided to establish a baseline and mow my yard in the thick air soup that is Nashville.

Standing in a creepy cool basement after doing a few things indoors (pulling mower off the wall, assembling, running up and down stairs a couple of times to get headset,) I tested and without mask breathing in cool AC air I was at 95 %SpO2 and a heart rate of 101. Little bit high for me, but having searched the house high and low for where we left the pulse oximeter you know, whatever..

I started mowing in the soup at 6:50 CST, 89f, soup.

10 minutes in and I felt nothing. The air was hot and the mask was maybe a little uncomfortable as I was mowing in the heat, but O2 levels were the same, normal, and it didn’t really feel like I was doing much other than having an extra damp face. So I decided I was going to alter the experiment and wear two masks at the same time.

At 7:19 I have my first lower O2 reading – it went to 93. I took a picture at 7:19:53 with an SpO2 of 93, and then a selfie with it at 7:20.04 (11 seconds later,) where it was showing back up at 95% again. Glitch? 2% drop being normal? Didn’t feel a thing negative for the 11 seconds it was showing slightly decreased o2.

I was getting bored so started pushing a little harder.

Some time around this point I decide nothing is changing and it’s time to throw on a third mask… however the pack is missing so this third mask review does not happen this go around. I’ll be extra masked on trial two.

7:34.29 chugging along at 95%, and finishing up the mow around 7:50.56 with a 96% SpO2, one percent higher than when I started. With two cloth masks. The temperature listed on my phone had dropped two or three degrees.

After the mow Gatorade was had and both masks were removed thoroughly drenched.

There was no noticeable O2 change. Two cloth masks did not impair my ability to breathe, do anything noticeable to my O2 levels, nor have any effect other than being slightly annoying.

While I am not going to mask shame people, if a cloth mask brings about any discussion about whether you can breathe or not and your body processes air normally, chances are you should consult a pulmonologist. Something’s wrong and you probably have an underlying condition that makes you more of a covid death risk.

Video coming, I make money if you click and buy that particular SpO2 sensor, it’s what I have and not the cheapest or the best these days.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts