There are many reasons why people buy disposable face masks. Certainly, the most obvious reason is that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic. There are overwhelming, staggering, and jaw-dropping amounts of evidence to support this simple method as a preventative measure to reduce the rate of infection. However, despite this level of evidence, there is still some confusion about the purpose of face masks.

Luckily, we are here today to answer this question. Unfortunately, for some people, this life-saving method of protection has become a political issue. We will not be looking at the necessity of reusable or disposable face masks through this lens. Instead, you can treat yourself to a brief lesson on physics, and perhaps a fun journey through the magic of the planet Earth.


What is Air?

Indeed, it seems like a broad question. A gaseous mixture that we cannot see and typically appears odourless is the easiest explanation. It is also an honest answer. However, the operative word, and the one which bears the most relevance here, is “gaseous.”

Many people believe that because matter exists in four states (solids, liquids, gases, plasmas), gas must be an entirely separate and non-distinct category, especially when you compare it so concretely to something like, well, concrete. However, the reality is that gas is very much a tangible thing, and we would certainly notice the absence of it. Of course, we are talking about suffocation.

Suffocation is the absence of breathable gas or air. Although popular science fiction may lead you to believe that people explode or die in space, the reality is much simpler. Humans simply suffocate without the gaseous mixture we need to survive, which, and sorry for the repetition, is air.


What Does This Have to Do with Face Masks?

At this point, you may feel we have diverted from the topic of face masks. Understandable, but incorrect. We are merely establishing the fact that air is, in fact, a tangible object or substance. In some ways, you can conceptualize it like we are walking through very thin honey. It doesn’t need to be honey, but bees are cute, and the substance is sweet, so it feels good to think of it in this way.

Now, that we know we are in delicious honey, the next part of your education deals with understanding microbiomes. It seems like an overly scientific word, to be sure, but biome is just a substitute word for ecosystem, like hawks eating mice and pooping out fertilizer, and all that jazz.


What are Microbiomes?

We do not own our bodies. It is worth apologizing for this realization, but in truth, our contribution to our body is relatively minimal. For an easy example of this, look at your digestive system. It works because you put something foreign into the entrance (read: mouth), and then a series of microscopic beings perform interactions with that substance. Sometimes they fight parts of the foreign material, or absorb it into themselves, or change to accommodate it.

This is the same concept at work in your respiratory system. We draw in the imaginary golden honey of air and mix it with our internal operations, before expelling slightly altered honey.


Seriously, What Does This Have to Do with Face Masks?

Alright, a brief review, and then we will get back to your precious face masks. People inhale transparent honey, but part of that honey is not strictly honey. Viruses and bacterias are like little bits of blended ginger added to the honey. Indeed, in some cases, this ginger is delicious and really adds a depth to your tea or shortcakes or whatever.

However, sometimes you are making a dish that will simply not work with ginger. You want to filter out that ginger so that you are just left with delicious honey. How are you going to do that? You can’t just use a strainer and pour the honey through it. The ginger is too small, and there is way too much honey.

No, instead, you need a very fine mesh filter—a purpose-built device for straining the ginger out of the honey. You need a face mask to get the very pure essence of honey. That is what face masks do, and you should wear one.