Wikipedia quote: “Snake oil is a euphemism for deceptive marketing and health care fraud. It refers to the petroleum-based mineral oil or “snake oil” that used to be sold as a cure-all elixir for many kinds of physiological problems. Many 19th-century United States and 18th-century European entrepreneurs advertised and sold mineral oil (often mixed with various active and inactive household herbs, spices, drugs, and compounds, but containing no snake-derived substances whatsoever) as “snake oil liniment“, making frivolous claims about its efficacy as a panacea. William Rockefeller Sr. sold petroleum-based “rock oil” as a cancer cure without the reference to snakes. Patent medicines that claimed to be a panacea were extremely common from the 18th century until the 20th, particularly among vendors masking addictive drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol and opium-based concoctions or elixirs, to be sold at medicine shows as medication or products promoting health”. Why I chose this introduction will hopefully become apparent in the rest of this blog post.
Aerosols are starting to become an accepted transmission route but…
I am frustrated by the resulting (i) hucksters and (ii) witless opportunists that are now coming out of the woodwork to sell their ‘Snake oil’. I saw the same thing happen earlier this year with face masks. Many companies started selling face masks without knowing diddly-squat about face masks. The result was that many people bought face masks thinking they were protected because they had a “CE Mark”, not knowing that China has a “CE EXPORT MARK” that is NOT an actual CE Certificate. There were so many fakes that it bugged the hell out of me. I still see many fakes out there. I spoke to many companies, to find out that many did not have a clue about what they were doing. They weren’t lying. They were witless opportunists. And others were actual lying hucksters. All they cared about was making money. But the similarities are startling. I see William Rockefeller Sr types, on ‘medicine shows‘ pushing ‘Ventilation’ concoctions or elixirs. And I see many people buying these ‘Snake oil’ solutions because they’re in a panic. The honesty is missing in this ‘Ventilation Debate’.
The problem with the Ventilation Pitch…
- Ventilation does not prevent the formation of aerosols. And prevention is always better then a cure.
- Using ventilation to remove aerosols requires significant ‘Turbulent Flow’ (Refresh Rate of Ambient Air)
- Using CO2 as a ‘dipstick’ showcases a lack of understanding about PM (Particulate Matter)
- The (running) cost and timespan of implementing ‘Ventilation’
The detailed drawbacks of ‘Ventilation’ vs. ‘Humidity’
Does not avoid aerosol infectivity. Ventilation does not avoid the formation of aerosols. That in itself is a major problem. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, the respiratory droplets and micro droplets (aerosols) are dispersed inside the room. Ventilated or not, there are infectious particles all over the room and therefore create a risk of infection. Increasing humidity (i) avoids the formation of aerosols, (ii) improves our mucosa (our natural ‘firewall against viruses’) and (iii) increases the rate of viral inactivation (the time the virus is ‘alive’) and (iv) reduces the infectivity (the virus’ ability to infect a person). So that’s 1 – 0 for Humidity vs. Ventilation. I would dare argue: “That’s 4 -0” already. But hey…
Turbulent flow = Noisy. On an Airplane the air is refreshed (any matter is removed) every 3 minutes. That is great because it means the viral load in an airplane is, basically, non-existent. The problem is the noise. Remember the ambient noise (why many people use noise-cancelling headphones) on airplanes? That’s because of the airplanes’ ventilation system. Sure, many Air purifiers (essentially a device that filters the air in a room) will be able to filter the air in a room. But in order to really filter ALL THE AIR the Air Purifier needs to run at full capacity to achieve a refresh rate of 20 minutes (the entire room is filtered 99.9% in 20 minutes) and trust me, that is noisy. And wearing noise-cancelling headphones in a classroom is not going to work. A Sonic Humidifier does not make any noise. So that’s 2 – 0 for Humidity vs. Ventilation.
Using CO2 as a dipstick. Many pundits of ‘Ventilation’ believe that the use of a CO2 meters is a way of measuring the refresh rate of the ambient air inside a room. This showcases a lack of scientific understanding. In Dutch there’s a saying: “Hearing the bell ring without knowing where the clappers are“. Their hypothesis is only PARTLY true. The #1 problem is that most Nondispersive Infrared (NDIR) Carbon Dioxide Sensors are affected by temperature and humidity. The #2 problem is Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion: “Force Equals Mass Times Acceleration“. Coronavirus particles are 120 nanometers, oxygen is 0.120 nanometers and carbon dioxide is 0.232 nanometers (source). Carbon dioxide (let’s assume mass is equal) takes 500 times less force to leave a room then a Coronavirus particles. So a CO2 meter telling you there is little carbon dioxide in a room tells you little about the amount of coronavirus in the air. Increasing Humidity does not require any CO2 measurement. So that’s 3 – 0 for Humidity vs. Ventilation.
The cost factor. As I outlined in an earlier post, the cost of ‘Ventilation’, using an air purifier (of €750), is approximately €18 per employee, per year. If you get a more expensive unit, like this one, the cost increases substantially. While a humidifier (of €450) costs €5 per employee, per year. And the humidifier is far far far more effective. So that’s 4 – 0 for Humidity vs. Ventilation.
So you have to wonder, why are people pushing expensive products if they know cheaper and more effective solutions are available? I think these so-called ‘independent pundits’ merit more scrutiny. I bet a little digging will show these independent pundits aren’t so independent. And that is something I have been doing and will post on in the not-to-distant-future.
So does this mean I am against ‘Ventilation’ as a solution?
No. Not at all. But I am for honest information. Just like a car’s NCAP score I believe the sum of the safety measures is what actually provides safety. That’s also why I’m not against a good (and proven) vaccine. I see that as a preventative measure – in the body – just like “Don’t drink and drive“. Ventilation, Humidification, Ionization, UV Lighting and Vaccination together allow us to minimize the risk of respiratory infections. Just like Shatter resistant glass, Seatbelts, Airbags, Anti-lock braking systems, Stability control, Lights, Mirrors, Bumpers and Pre-collision technology.
Any ‘Independent Pundit’ that only talks about seatbelts is not independent. They’re trying to sell you (Snake oil).