Since most of Hawaii’s coastline features quiet, sheltered waters, snorkeling is a fantastic pastime. Unfortunately, many people suspect that their full-face snorkel masks cause carbon dioxide poisoning.
The dangers of using full-face masks while snorkeling are severe and well documented; however, people still use them often without fully understanding the implications or knowing the snorkeling-related deaths linked to them.
Full-face snorkeling masks are popular among swimmers and divers because they offer excellent vision and protection from the elements versus traditional masks.
However, they can also restrict your ability to breathe normally and properly as well as pose a significant risk to your health and safety. Here are the dangers of full-face masks used in snorkeling that you should be aware of.
Dangers of Full Face Snorkel Masks
Traditional snorkel masks have been used for ages by beginner snorkelers to the more avid snorkeler to explore underwater realms and immerse themselves in the aquatic world below the water surface let’s look into the dangers they can present.
The Restricted Breathing
If you’re new to snorkeling or diving, the only way that you would be able to breathe normally is if you breathed through your mouth only.
This is fine for short periods of time, but experts recommend that you breathe through your nose or through a tube that comes up and from your snorkel all the time to avoid air and sea sicknesses. If you breathe through your mouth, you would either need to exhale your nose or your mouth, which would be ineffective and unsafe at the same time.
This is especially true if you are in water that’s deep or rough. The danger with a full-face snorkel mask is that it prevents you from breathing through your nose or mouth.
This means that there is less oxygenated air that reaches your lungs. When you inhale through your nose or mouth, oxygen from the air is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Oxygen is essential in the proper functioning of your heart and lungs. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to live for long.
The oxygen that you breathe in helps you maintain your normal body temperature and function. It causes your heart to pump regularly and your lungs to take in more air.
The major danger of using a full-face snorkel mask is the inability to breathe through your nose and mouth. Since you can only exhale through your mouth or nose, your body would be more likely to overheat, and overheating would make it harder for you to breathe in through the mouth or nose.
Breathing problems would be more severe since your body wouldn’t be taking in enough oxygen to effectively control your heart rate and blood pressure, which is essentially what keeps you alive. This condition could easily lead to death.
Poor Circulation and Other Problems
Taking a break and resting in a spot that’s comfortable when swimming is possible, but you need to make sure that your mask is properly removed and allowed to dry before taking it off.
Being underwater for an extended period of time can cause more than just restricted breathing; it can also cause poor circulation and blood circulation disorders due to poor oxygen circulation within your body. Your circulatory system consists of arteries and veins that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to other tissues in your body.
Oxygen-poor blood is then returned to your heart through veins. Although poor circulation can be reversed with proper medical attention, the damage has already been done.
The dangers of a full-face snorkel mask are serious and need to be understood before using these masks for snorkeling or diving. If you don’t have the right gear to prevent drowning, you could easily come into serious trouble.
Carbon Dioxide Buildup
The impact of carbon dioxide is serious and can lead to death if you build up enough of it which full-faced masks have been shown as a possibility.
Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of breathing and fermentation during respiration and is the cause of most deaths associated with swimming or diving.
A normal rate of breathing causes carbon dioxide to be expelled through the lungs at the rate of 200-400 ml per hour. Too much carbon dioxide can cause the body to overheat and impair breathing in individuals who use full-face snorkel masks for snorkeling and diving.
Respiratory problems would occur if carbon dioxide builds up in your body and could cause you to drown. A normal breathing rate allows carbon dioxide to be expelled through the nose and mouth at a rate of 200-400 ml per hour.
However, since you’re primarily breathing through a full-face mask that seals your nose and mouth shut, the carbon dioxide is unable to escape through your nose or mouth and instead builds up in your bloodstream.
Although carbon dioxide is non-toxic, it can lead to severe health problems if high concentrations are developed in your body while snorkeling or diving with a mask that restricts your breathing.
Why were snorkel masks banned in Hawaii?
Overall due to general health concerns and problems that were occurring with the equipment at the time.
Many snorkel masks at the time had issues with leakage and valves breaking while in the water, this caused many swimmers to drown without warning.
The state board took action after surveying the equipment and determined it had better alternatives available that were safer to use when snorkeling.
What are the consequences to tourists who visit Hawaii?
You need to confirm with your snorkel tours that they either allow the use of full-face snorkel masks or do not utilize them at all and use a regular mask for a safe experience.
For your safety, it would be best to utilize a snorkel mask that doesn’t cover the entire face but instead has a nasal cover only so you can breathe normally and properly, this will prevent any health problems from occurring while in the water.
What impact does the ban on full-face snorkel masks have on tourism in Hawaii?
Overall the impact is very little true impact as less than 1% of tourists utilize them it’s more of a safety concern than an actual impact on tourism.
What is the penalty for using a full-face snorkel mask in Hawaii?
Currently, there is no penalty for visitors for using full-face snorkel masks instead warnings are provided with the purchase of their snorkel equipment and it’s up to the user to implement them.
Final Thoughts on Full Face Snorkel Masks
In summary, the dangers of full-face snorkel masks are very serious risks and you should look to purchase a full-face mask that features a nasal area that is separate from the top portion of the mask as this will allow you to breathe normally through the nose preventing any health issues that could occur while snorkeling or diving.
While not a problem for shorter more controlled peeks into the underwater world, the full-face snorkel masks pose serious risks that can last for long periods of time and can lead to serious health problems and complications.
The dangers are compounded by the lack of proper training or knowledge on how to use and properly use these masks and can lead to both lung and heart problems in addition to drowning if proper precautions and procedures are not followed.
The key to limiting snorkel-related deaths is education on the dangers and proper use of the equipment, enforcing the proper guidelines while also allowing visitors who do not utilize full-face masks the opportunity to fully enjoy the ocean and sea without having to resort to risking their health and personal safety while in the water.