Questions are being raised about the safety of full-face snorkelling masks in Hawaii after data shows that tourists are 10 times more likely to drown than residents, and that the drowning rate on the islands is 13 times the national average.
According to a story in Civil Beat, 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 says there is concern over the breathing resistance involved with the new full-face snorkelling masks and all other gadgets designed to prevent water from entering the tube. He stated:
“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,” adding, “We need to find out how to test them and then what to do about protecting people from using them.”
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 snorkelers 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.
Gary Cooper, a California resident, 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.
While there are still plenty of questions to be answered and a lot of research to be conducted, what is sure is that between 2002 and 2012, 102 visitors drowned snorkelling in Hawaii, which is massively disproportionate to the 13 Hawaii residents who drowned snorkelling during the same time.
For more info, check out the full story in Civil Beat.