Egypt’s governing body for marine tourist activities, the Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS), together with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, has issued a recommendation that dive and snorkel operators steer clear of full-face snorkelling masks.
The warning is issued ‘based on recent investigations of several incidents that indicated the recurrence of accidents and injuries resulting from the use of the full-face mask for snorkelling,’ according to a statement issued by the CDWS on 26 August.
‘Various observations have been recorded on the lack of safety of using this mask and the risk of inhaling the accumulated carbon dioxide inside of the mask produced while breathing. Breathing CO2 can lead to headaches, dizziness, and in some cases unconsciousness, which could lead to drowning.’
Full-face snorkel masks have been on the market since 2014/15 and became popular for their increased field of vision, easier breathing and reduced likelihood of flooding, however, they have been blamed for a number of fatalities regarding their use. While there has been some debate about whether or not the concept by itself is unsafe, the general consensus is that it is cheap imitation masks that are to blame, rather than those made by reputable manufacturers.
The more high priced products from the likes of Mares and SEAC, for example, are designed with a compartment across the nose and mouth, and vents to flush the mask with fresh air, to prevent the build-up of CO2 in the rest of the air space. Other advice includes not swimming too hard and not duck-diving while wearing them.
Although the CDWS has not banned the use of full-face snorkel masks entirely, it asks that operators ‘kindly educate [their] visitors and raise their awareness of the risk factors of using the full-face mask.’