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Experts in Hawaii raise concerns about full-face snorkelling masks


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Full-face snorkelling masks are springing up everywhere, and were touted as the solution for people who couldn’t get on with a traditional mask and separate snorkel. However, now various experts in Hawaii have started questioning the safety of these full-face masks after data shows that tourists are ten times more likely to drown than residents, and that the drowning rate on the islands is 13 times the national average. has reported that safety campaigners are demanding that the type of equipment used in snorkelling drowning incidents be recorded, so that more research can be conducted. Oahu physician Dr Philip Foti was concerned over the breathing resistance involved with the new full-face snorkelling masks, and all other gadgets designed to prevent water from entering the tube, saying: “I am trying really hard to get a device that will allow us to be the filters of which snorkels to use and which snorkels not to use.”

There are concerns that the new devices may be causing too much breathing resistance and the resulting work of breathing becoming too high, which can leave snorkellers short of breath, and lead to more serious problems in the water.

The problem is not just the breathing resistance of new snorkel designs, but also of full-face masks. Due to the large dead airspace in the mask and tube, there is concern that there could be a build-up of carbon dioxide in the mask, which could lead to the swimmer becoming disoriented, weaker, and possibly black out and drown.

California resident Gary Cooper has been raising the alarm about the potential problem of full-face masks after his wife drowned off the Big Island last year while using a full-face snorkelling mask.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered and a lot of research to be conducted, but what is for certain is that between 2002 and 2012, a total of 102 visitors drowned snorkelling in Hawaii, which is massively disproportionate to the 13 local residents who drowned snorkelling during the same time.

Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. 30-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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