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Snorkel Masks Adapted as Covid-19 CPAP Respirators

decathlon snorkel respirator

The inexpensive attachments (yellow device) convert snorkel masks into CPAP respirators (Photo: Issinova)

Doctors in Italy have received assistance from the diving world in the form of full-face snorkelling masks that have been adapted to fit hospital respirator machines and act as emergency ventilators in the treatment of coronavirus patients.

Full-face snorkelling masks have been heavily criticised since hitting the market several years ago, with some being blamed for drowning incidents caused by carbon dioxide buildup inside the mask. Nevertheless, their simple adaptation for use as continuous positive airway (CPAP) ventilators by the medical establishment has been warmly welcomed. 

The connecting valve was developed by engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli from 3D printing company Issinova, based in the northern Italian province of Brescia, one of the locations most badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 3D printed valve, which costs just 1 Euro to produce, was designed to fit snorkelling masks from French company Decathlon, and has subsequently been adapted to fit Mares Sea Vu Dry+ masks.

According to Issinova's website, the idea was proposed by Dr Renato Favero, a senior physician at the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital in Brescia, as a means to resolving a shortage of CPAP ventilators caused by the spread of Covid-19. Issinova had already been producing the small plastic respirator valves required to connect ventilators to hospital breathing machines. 

The patent for the 3D printing design will be free to use, although Fracassi and Romaioli have said that they will not make it publicly available to ensure that it is correctly manufactured and free from contamination. 

'The valve has very thin holes and tubes, smaller than 0.8m - it's not easy to print the pieces,' said Mr Fracassi, in an interview with the BBC. 'Plus you have to respect not contaminating the product - really it should be produced in a clinical way.'

Interest in the masks is spreading, with other companies also getting involved - as Mares and SEAC have both announced on their respective Facebook pages. At this stage, the masks are untested as medical equipment, but are thought to be a good 'stop-gap' solution while clinical trials are underway.




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