full face snorkel mask

Toronto hospital tests out snorkel face masks in case of N95 shortage

People around the world have been coming up with some pretty creative (albeit questionably effective) DIY personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

And though water jugs, coffee filters and sanitary pads may not be the best measures against the airborne virus, one hospital in Toronto has come up with its own innovative version of a face mask that might actually prove as functional as an N95.

Anticipating a further shortage of PPE, such as the much-sought-after respirators manufactured by 3M, the city's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has found a way to adapt full-face snorkel masks to function as face coverings to protect frontline healthcare workers from exposure to COVID-19.

Originally Hydro-Swim SeaClear Vista one-piece snorkeling masks, the airtight plastic face coverings are being modified and trialled for their new use in a hospital setting.

The existing design already protects the eyes, nose and mouth from outside contaminants, while the portion at the top of the mask that usually connects to a snorkel tube is being replaced with a disposable 3D-printed ventilator cartridge.

The idea was conceived by Sunnybrook cardiologists and engineers Dr. Brian Courtney and Dr. Brian Li and their teams, while Canadian Tire has come on board to donate more than 1,100 of the reusable masks for them to retool and utilize in-house.

"In the context of the crisis, we are exploring all options," the hospital's medical director of infection prevention and control said in a statement.

Sunnybrook notes that the masks will only be employed if tests prove their safety and effectiveness, and only if the need arises, i.e. if N95 masks become more inaccessible amid global supply issues — but, it says results from the testing so far have been "promising."

Lead photo by

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre


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