Zelp’s Methane-Reducing Masks For Cattle: Should They Be Face Fit Tested?
Masks for cows may sound like an unlikely comedy plot, but the methane cattle exhale is no laughing matter for a climate that is already in a perilous condition. Although carbon dioxide (CO²) is well-known for its contribution to global warming, methane traps more heat per molecule in the atmosphere, making it 80 times more damaging for two decades after its release. And, while the UK’s methane emissions have stabilised since 2010, a single cow can produce up to 650 litres of methane a day, which results in huge emissions from the 9.6 million cattle in the country.
Why Masks For Cows Is More Than Just An Amusing Idea
Cows generate methane gas as a by-product of enteric fermentation, a natural process in which anaerobic microbes ferment and decompose food in the animal’s digestive tract. Most of the methane is released through eructation or belching.
Recognising the contribution that the UK’s cattle make to the climate crisis and, with Net Zero just 25 years away, the Zero Emissions Livestock Project (ZELP) has developed a wearable device for cows that neutralises methane emissions. Like a mask, the device fits comfortably over the nose of the animal and, using a catalytic mechanism converts methane into carbon dioxide and water vapour.
Should Face Fit Testing Be Introduced For Cows?
We know from industry that face masks only deliver exceptional performance if they undergo face fit testing to ensure an airtight seal that prevents respiratory hazards, such as dusts, fumes, and sprays, from being inhaled. So, logic would dictate that, to accurately gauge the effectiveness of the ZELP mask in reducing emissions, it should also be face fit tested for the following reasons:
Firstly, a poorly fitting mask will allow methane to easily escape when the cow exhales or eructates before the integrated catalytic convertor can process the gas. With large volumes of methane lost, the mask will be redundant and make little impact on reducing greenhouse gases.
Secondly, the ZELP project relies heavily on data to assess the amount of methane that is captured by the device. Any flaws in the fit of the masks will skew the data, making it unreliable for scientists.
Like humans, few cows are exactly the same, they have a wide variation in facial bone structure. Face fit testing would help to ensure that masks are developed that suit a broader range of cattle, thereby reducing costs and waste.
Also, an ill-fitting mask is unlikely to stay in place for long. The animal may attempt to remove it, or it may become snagged on vegetation or fences. A loose mask may also be distressing for the cows, whereas one that has been professionally fitted is likely to be more comfortable.
Find Out More About Our Face Fit Testing
At Fire Safe International, we may not provide expert face fit testing for cows, but we can support your organisation with its RPE fitting to protect your workers from the dangers of respirable hazards. To find out more, please get in touch.