Was the Del Bigtree CO2 mask demo misleading?
It was an impressive demo done in July, 2020 showing the CO2 levels inside a mask quickly rise to levels that were too high to measure. I believe the demo overstated the harm. Here's the full story.
How this article came about
First, let me clarify that I am a huge fan of Del Bigtree, The HighWire, and ICAN.
I recently ran across one of his videos (because it was included in this video) and I was shocked by the result of the video since it gave the impression that kids were breathing extremely unhealthy levels of CO2. I immediately forwarded the video to two friends, and started drafting a substack article about it, but thanks to the comments from my readers on the early drafts, I quickly realized that the video does not give an accurate estimate of the CO2 being inhaled. So I re-wrote the article to explain what was going on (which is now the article you are reading).
One of the worst things anyone on our side of the narrative can do is promote information that can be interpreted as being misleading. That information can be used to attack our credibility in general.
I wrote this article to explain what was going on in Del’s video: that the CO2 levels inhaled are bad, but just not as bad as it appears in the video.
We all make mistakes. I make mistakes. It’s important when we realize there is a mistake or we have said something that is misleading, we correct it ASAP.
I hope that people will find this article useful in that regard on clarifying what is really happening in that demo.
One person asked, “whose side are you on?” I’m on the side of exposing the truth.
Watch this popular Del Bigtree video on CO2 and face masks that first aired in July 2020. If you are short on time, just watch the first two minutes.
That was Del Bigtree’s son, Ever, in the video. He gets stopped all the time in the airport because of it (fans wanting to talk to him).
Looks impressive doesn’t it? The meter is legit. The readings are legit.
None of the fact checkers (except one) could explain what was going on. They all dismissed it saying experts claim that masks are perfectly safe. Not very comforting.
Now, for the first time in the nearly two years since that video aired, I’m going to explain to you what is really going on here and why the truth is not nearly as bad as it appears from the video.
Before I do that, here’s the quick summary of the takeaways from this article:
Face masks have no benefit whatsoever in reducing the spread of COVID. Cloth, surgical, and N95 masks are useless. I’ve written about this many times before. See Incriminating Evidence for a list of all my mask articles.
Since there are no benefits, it follows that masks have nothing but downsides.
The Del Bigtree demo showed an exaggerated effect. Masks are bad for you, but they are not as bad as it appears in the video. My very rough estimate is that people wearing masks likely do inhale higher levels of CO2 than normal with N95 masks being the worst offenders with an estimated 4,340 ppm which can lead to headaches, sleepiness, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and slight nausea. The N95’s are the most dangerous due to lower permeability and higher volume of trapped gas.
The “fact checks” of this video were pretty much all inadequate; only one fact check could explain what the heck was going on. The others said it was a flawed experiment but were unable to explain the flaw. This shows you just how bad the fact checkers and the experts they rely on are. None of the acknowledged that the CO2 levels when you inhale are likely unsafe. They all avoided making any calculation of the CO2 concentration whatsoever (are you surprised?).
The bottom line is that people who think they are being “safe” by using an N95 mask are, in fact, choosing the worst possible solution: not only will it not protect them from the virus, but it is the most likely to cause them to breathe unsafe CO2 levels.
Finally, the reason I’m bringing this up now is that it was included in a recent video and I wanted to set the record straight about this video.
Here’s the explanation for why it’s not as bad as it looks
The meter used in the Bigtree video is available for $139 on Amazon. It is not accurate above 2,000 ppm, but, for our purposes, that doesn’t matter.
For the purposes of the explanation, we can assume the meter is perfectly accurate. You’d have gotten a similar result with a perfectly accurate meter.
Here’s the magic trick…
The video is misleading, but not for any of the reasons any of the fact checkers pointed out. In fact, as far as I could tell, not a single fact checker got this right!
The most important thing is that you have to understand the limitations of the meters. These meters never show an instantaneous measurement; they all have a response time of between 15 to 30 seconds depending on the meter (the MSA meters respond in around 15 seconds). This meter seems to settle in around 30 seconds which is why the meter value kept rising over the 30 seconds of the main test (it rose continually over the period… time it yourself).
So you are looking at an AVERAGE value over 30 seconds on the meter. That’s the key piece most everyone missed.
If the meter displayed a real-time instantaneous value, we would see a MUCH lower CO2 level on inhale (which is what counts for health reasons) and a very high reading on exhale (since the CO2 of exhaled air is around 38,000 ppm).
The reason you’d see a low CO2 concentration on inhalation is that a large quantity of outside air is being drawn through the mask at that point which would reduce the instantaneous CO2 concentration for that part of the breathing cycle. This is because the volume of CO2 trapped in the mask is relatively small since the mask conforms to his face.
So if we have a 600 ppm room CO2 level, nearly zero trapped gas in the mask, and a 38,000 ppm level for exhaled gas and we spend an equal amount of time exhaling and inhaling, then the meter is going to average out (assuming it is linear) at 19,300 which is, of course, “off the scale” of the meter.
That’s why the meter maxes out. Duh.
But that doesn’t mean the inhaled air is unsafe. To find out, we need to do a calculation.
The key is determining the CO2 level whenever the wearer breathes in.
If 90% of the air is drawn through the mask from the outside and 10% is drawn from inside the mask (which I estimated by measuring the volume of air I exhale compared to the volume inside the N95 mask) , then we can estimate the CO2 level he’s breathing in is at (90%*600+10%*38,000)=4,340 ppm which is in the danger region for headaches, sleepiness, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and slight nausea.
Nearly all the fact checker missed the boat and couldn’t explain the CO2 concentrations on inhale vs. exhale
One “fact checker” claims it isn’t a legit test by claiming the meter is designed only to measure the CO2 in a large room, not a confined space. The fact check claimed “there isn’t enough time for the meter to drop back down to zero before the next breath” makes no sense since CO2 is never zero in a room. They missed the boat but sort of hinted at the fact that the meter measures an average value over time.
The other fact checkers were completely fooled and had to rely on assurances from “experts” none of who could explain what was going on, but all assured the fact checkers that masks are perfectly safe. These fact checks include:
Flawed experiments exaggerate risk from CO2 concentration in masks which argued “They are using the wrong device and they are trying to compare the wrong numbers.” They completely failed to understand this simple
YouTube videos falsely claiming that masks are harmful have gotten hundreds of thousands of views (this was the worst fact check and explained nothing)
Only one fact check I found got it pretty much right talking about the 10 second reaction time of the meter (this was a different meter) and drawing in outside air through the mask during inhalation: Video Presents Flawed Test on Masks, Oxygen Levels. But even they didn’t attempt to estimate the CO2 concentration when you inhaled. That would have been counter-narrative so they avoided it.
The mask video was a major reason that Del got kicked off of both YouTube and Facebook. We can only wonder if, had Del explained the meter averaging effect and drawing in air from the outside on inhaling, he would still have been deplatformed.
How can a mask trap CO2?
You may be wondering, “If the mask can’t even trap the virus then how can it trap CO2 molecules which are even smaller?” which is a good question. The simplest way to answer that is think of the mask as a two lane freeway. The cars are smaller than the lanes and pass right through, but if you have a 12 lane highway that is suddenly transitioned to a 2 lane highway, it’s going to impede the flow of traffic even though all the cars are smaller than the lanes. Another example is water and a cloth towel. Put the cloth towel over the drain in your shower. If you run the water at a low flow rate, no problem. Increase the flow rate and you’ll be standing in a puddle of water. The H20 is smaller than the gaps in the towel, but it still impedes the rate of flow out. This is why the concentration of gasses on each side of the mask (inside vs. outside) is not going to be the same.
More mask info
Here’s a video of Byram Bridle wearing 5 surgical masks showing that aerosols pass right through all 5 masks.
Check out this video on mask wearing in general. The website referenced in the video: c19science.info. The mask study referenced in the video: COVID-19 Masks: How Effective and How Safe?
You write: "If 90% of the air is drawn through the mask from the outside and 10% is drawn from inside the mask (which I estimated by measuring the volume of air I exhale compared to the volume inside the N95 mask) , then we can estimate the CO2 level he’s breathing in is at (90%*600+10%*38,000)=4,340 ppm which is in the danger region for headaches, sleepiness, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and slight nausea."
This is a flawed analysis. You are assuming that you breathe as deeply with the mask on as with the mask off. With the mask off you can exhale and inhale deeply, i.e. with a greater volume of gases. With the mask on the tendency is to shallow breathe, so the volume of air from outside the mask will be reduced relative to that behind the mask. Conclusion: you may be suffering more hypercapnia than you think.
This is great mr Kirsch. It is correct. You have found the flaw in the video. God bless.