Carbon dioxide increases with face masks but remains below s
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COVID-19 pandemic led to wide-spread use of face-masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare workers. Various symptoms attributed to the use of PPE are believed to be, at least in part, due to elevated carbon-dioxide (CO2) levels. Researchers evaluated concentrations of CO2 under various PPE.

In a prospective observational study on healthy volunteers, CO2 levels were measured during regular breathing while donning 1) no mask, 2) JustAir powered air purifying respirator (PAPR), 3) KN95 respirator, and 4) valved-respirator. Serial CO2 measurements were taken with a nasal canula at a frequency of 1-Hz for 15-min for each PPE configuration to evaluate whether National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) limits were breached.

Results:
-- The study included 11 healthy volunteers, median age 32 years (range 16–54) and 6 (55%) men.

-- Percent mean (SD) changes in CO2 values for no mask, JustAir PAPR, KN95 respirator and valve respirator were 0.26 (0.12), 0.59 (0.097), 2.6 (0.14) and 2.4 (0.59), respectively.

-- Use of face masks (KN95 and valved-respirator) resulted in significant increases in CO2 concentrations, which exceeded the 8-h NIOSH exposure threshold limit value-weighted average (TLV-TWA).

-- However, the increases in CO2 concentrations did not breach short-term (15-min) limits. Importantly, these levels were considerably lower than the long-term (8-h) NIOSH limits during donning JustAir PAPR.

-- There was a statistically significant difference between all pairs.

-- However, whether increase in CO2 levels are clinically significant remains debatable.

Conclusively, although, significant increase in CO2 concentrations are noted with routinely used face-masks, the levels still remain within the NIOSH limits for short-term use. Therefore, there should not be a concern in their regular day-to-day use for healthcare providers. The clinical implications of elevated CO2 levels with long-term use of face masks needs further studies. Use of PAPR prevents relative hypercapnoea. However, whether PAPR should be advocated for healthcare workers requiring PPE for extended hours needs to evaluated in further studies.

Source: https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-021-06056-0
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