By KEVIN HANSONALA/FAIRFAX NZ Coal miners in New Zealand are wearing masks, in a bid to stop them getting sick.
The masks are made of aluminium, which means they absorb toxins, including carbon monoxide, which can cause bronchitis, as well as breathing problems.
In Australia, the masks are manufactured by a Chinese company, and are made from recycled material.
The mask is not intended to treat the coal miners breathing problem, but to reduce the risk of bronchiolitis, or chronic bronchial asthma.
The company that makes the masks has told the ABC it does not intend to sell the masks, and has not responded to requests for comment.
The Queensland Government has said that the masks have already reduced the number of bronchiitis cases in the state, and that the use of masks is “consistent with the Queensland Government’s health and safety policy”.
The masks were first introduced in 2017.
Since then, Queensland has recorded a total of more than 2,600 cases of chronic bronchiectasis.
Queensland’s Ministry of Health said the masks were a “significant step forward” in addressing the problem.
But Dr Sarah Jones from the Queensland Department of Health and Ageing said Queenslanders were being asked to wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“There are so many other things that can cause people to be exposed to COVID, including occupational exposure and food and drink exposures,” she said.
“The masks that we are using are not going to be enough to protect us from the COVID virus.”
The masks have been designed to absorb carbon monoxides, which are a form of greenhouse gas, and so they don’t absorb much CO2 when they come in contact with people.
“It’s not like it’s a natural thing, you can’t wear a mask every day,” Dr Jones said.
Queensland Health said they had already had about 500 people wear masks, but more people needed to wear them.
The ministry said they were now looking at whether people would be asked to buy them, if that happened, or whether it was just a marketing tactic.
“We’re hoping to be able to provide more masks at a time when the health system is so busy and is so overwhelmed with people coming into the system, we don’t know what the impact of all the masks is going to do,” she told the Nine Network’s Breakfast.
“What we are hoping is that people would wear them on a regular basis and they would help to reduce exposure.”
But Dr Jones also warned that the mask was not a solution to the problem, and said Queensland’s coronavirus vaccination campaign was not yet up to scratch.
“This is a pandemic, it’s not a pandemia.
The only thing that can stop COVID is the right vaccines,” she explained.
“I’m worried about how it will affect the vaccine.
There’s no way we can vaccinate for all people, and we’re going to have to get through this to get to where we want to be.”
Dr Jones told the Four Corners program the Queensland government would continue to work with businesses to introduce the masks.
“As long as we have the mask in the public realm, we’ll continue to look at the idea that it’s good for business and we will look at what the other options are,” she added.
“And then we will continue to make the best decision that we can.”
The Queensland government said they hoped the masks would help reduce COVID transmission, but that it was still unclear how effective the masks actually were.
The state government is also working with manufacturers to see if they could produce them in a similar way to the masks used by miners in Australia.
The ABC’s Nick Kyme reports.