They Might Look Silly, But Cheap Snorkel Masks Can Be Converted to Respirators

Snorkel masks are exactly what they sound like… recreational, full-face masks with a snorkel device. They’re meant as an easy way for vacationers to snorkel without navigating the old tube that went in your mouth separate from the mask. Now researchers are converting these low-cost items into respirators for treating patients suffering with coronavirus, or even protective gear for healthcare professionals.

A team from the Czech Technical University (CVUT) worked with volunteers to add military-grade filters to  the $24 snorkel masks. The researchers said that tests had showed the retrofitted masks surpassed the protection of masks carrying FFP3, considered one of the highest grade filters.

CVUT President Vojtech Petracek said:

“We are distributing (the masks) to hospitals in Prague and in other places.  We have made 2,200 pieces so far and this week we plan 10,000 more.”

A Belgian hospital, meanwhile, is testing snorkeling masks as respirators for patients, drawing on an initiative developed in Italy. The Erasmus Hospital in Brussels began working with a local medical device company to develop the masks, known as Easybreath and which cover the entire face.

The idea, proposed by Italian engineers, doesn’t require putting a tube down a person’s throat.

Frederic Bonnier, a physiotherapist working on the project, said:

“The solution is to use snorkel masks, but we have only tested them on volunteers. It has to be right.”

It’s heartening to see the innovation happening around the world as people attack this pandemic from many angles.

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