The drowning rate for visitors in Hawaii is thirteen times the national average and nearly ten times the rate of residents. Snorkeling in Hawaii is the most common activity associated with these drownings.
In the past two months alone, here on Kauai, a 46 year old man died snorkeling off Wailua, a 20 year old visitor died snorkeling at Pine Trees (Hanalei Bay) and another 64 year old died at Puu Poa Beach.
While snorkeling in Hawaii on the Big Island in 2017, a woman died wearing her full face mask she purchased on Amazon. Afterwards, her husband posted a review of the product, only to have it removed. Her husband and others suspected that these masks allow for the buildup of carbon dioxide which could cause someone to pass out. Those specific masks are no longer available on Amazon, although they still sell other full face masks.
During snorkeling activity, the need for more oxygen requires us to breathe faster. With a full face mask, some of the exhaled air may not fully exit the device and it is possible to breathe in the contaminated air. That has potential to lead to unconsciousness.
Maui Fire Chief Ed Taomoto said: “Recently, we have noticed that a number of snorkel-related drownings, or, near-drownings have involved these new one-piece masks, but it is too early to make any sort of connection to the use of this equipment and drownings. We’re not sure if the increase in incidents involving these new full-face type masks is related to a problem with this design or if there [are] just more people using this type over the traditional two-piece snorkel set.”
As a result, a number of snorkel tour operators now prohibit the use of these full face masks. Snorkel Bob’s, which operates on all islands, tested the masks and said “They have been so aggressive in their marketing…. We tested it and said, no way. We won’t carry it.”
Currently, no snorkel equipment regulations exist in the U.S. Thus we suggest extreme caution in use of these masks.
What’s your experience if any with full face snorkeling masks?