• Andrew Walsh MD PhD

3M and Facebook facilitate Coronavirus transmission by promoting improper use of valved masks

Many respirator masks designed for home use include a relief valve for exhalation as it makes the masks more comfortable. In home use such as sanding etc. this is acceptable as the mask is designed to prevent inhalation of dust and other irritants. The exhalation valve does not filter expiration at all. When masks like this are used against their design purpose as in the current pandemic these masks are absolutely worse than no mask at all. The main idea of mask use is to prevent transmission from asymptomatic individuals. If somebody with Covid-19 wears a mask with a relief valve thinking they are protecting others they are dead wrong and will more likely promote community transmission thinking they are safe.

This is common knowledge among health care professionals but less commonly known in the community but it is absolutely correct as even some cities are banning public use of masks with valves for this reason. As William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center explained "We want to protect you from me. And so, this valved N95 [mask] really doesn't function appropriately in this COVID environment-- either in the health care setting, or in the community."

A friend of mine was aware of this trap very early on in the current pandemic. So he posted on his Facebook page (now deleted from Facebook but reprinted at the bottom of this page) how to adapt a valved mask for safe use. Some lawyer from 3M found his page and complained to Facebook who then banned my friend's account with this explanation,

"We removed or disabled access to the following content you posted on Facebook because a third party reported that your offer of goods and/or promotion of the sale of goods infringes on their trademark rights:"

followed by

As a user of Facebook, you have agreed to our Statement of Rights & Responsibilities, which states that users are prohibited from taking any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else's rights or otherwise violates the law. When we receive a proper claim of intellectual property rights infringement, we promptly remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing content. We also terminate the accounts of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances.

My friend replied

My post was a warning to not use N95 masks with exhalation valves as they do not protect others from COVID-19 if you are infected, and how to block up the valve if you need to use such a mask. This same warning is given by public health authorities worldwide
Please explain why you believe that the content should not have been removed. : My post did not offer any goods and/or promotion of goods that violate anyone's intellectual property. I am not selling or promoting any products
This is a vexacious  an erroneous complaint and the removal of this post is potentially endangering other people if inappropriate masks are used. This advice is the same as given by public health authorities
It is also a single complaint. There is no repeat intellectual property violation as required under Facebook terms and conditions for accounts to be disabled . The complainant has not replied to my request that the withdraw their complaint

but it was too late. His account at Facebook has been terminated.

3M have this to say about taping over valves of their masks:

Currently 3M is not aware of any studies on the risk of infectious material exiting through the exhalation valve of respirators.

There are no studies because it is obvious to anyone that infectious materials will exit the exhalation valve if they are present! No study is required and I guarantee there will never be such a study as the outcome will be obvious.

A recent letter to the editor of Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology had this to say on the subject:

The risks related to the presence of an exhalation valve are not intuitive for the general population and should not be silenced by institutions and governments.

I am disgusted by this behavior from both 3M and Facebook. My friend was only trying to alert people to the dangers of valved masks. 3M have made billions of dollars profiting from this pandemic. They make many fine products which are suited for use in public yet viciously attack people pointing out improper use of some of their products and have their Facebook accounts banned. Facebook are complicit in this by banning his account with no attempt whatsoever to study the circumstances behind this.

I for one am boycotting both 3M and Facebook. As if 3M have not made enough money from this tragedy without resorting to such petty actions.

original Facebook post was this

Making a face mask with an exhalation valve safer for use

Many face masks including N95 masks used for industrial and home use (eg3M8511) have exhalation valves so exhaled air goes directly out the valve unfiltered so the face is cooler.

This makes masks with exhalation valves not suitable for use when trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases to other people. This includes staff in aged care, carers for elderly or immune compromised people, and people with symptoms of COVID-19 or other diseases.

A seal for the mask exhalation valve can easily made be made from foam tape or vinyl sheet with adhesive on one side, which sticks over the inside of the exhalation valve to block it.

For the 3M8511 N95 face mask, a seal can easily made by cutting out a circular disk 22mm (7/8 in) in diameter from foam tape or vinyl sheet and sticking it over the back of the exhalation valve on the inside of the mask.

I used Suntuf Purlin Tape (25mm wide 3mm thick 20m long) available from Bunning in Australia. This is sufficient to make 800 seals costing 2c each.

Small quantities can be cut out with scissors using a 10c piece as a template. For large quantities a 22mm hollow punch can be used available from tool suppliers.

A seal can also be made from adhesive vinyl sheet (contact) used for covering books and making stencils and stickers. This can be cut into 22mm circles using scissors, using a vinyl cutter such as the Brother Scan N Cut or produced by label printers using a die cutter

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