Face masks have been a necessity for everyone since the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began. But two studies have pointed out that face masks do more harm than good, especially to children. Both papers focused on the negative effects of high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) children inhale when wearing masks for prolonged periods.
The first study published June 2021 in JAMA Pediatrics involved a clinical trial in Germany with 45 volunteers from both genders. The volunteers aged between six and 17 years old were made to wear masks. Researchers then measured the levels of CO2 under the children’s masks.
Estimates showed that children forced to wear face coverings while in school do so for an average of 4.5 hours. The researchers discovered that CO2 levels under children’s face masks after just three minutes of being worn exceeded levels deemed unacceptable by the German Environment Agency. They also found that the amount of CO2 inhaled by the child with the lowest CO2 level was three times higher than the agency’s 2,000 parts per million (ppm) limit. Furthermore, the air measured from one seven-year-old child had a CO2 concentration of 25,000 ppm.
The study noted that CO2 building up in the dead-space volume of the masks can lead to hypercapnia or too much CO2 in the bloodstream. It pointed out that “most of the complaints reported by children” such as irritability, headache and reluctance to go to school “can be understood as consequences of elevated [CO2] levels in inhaled air.”
The second study published April 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) looked at 65 papers about face masks. Of these papers, 44 pointed out the significant negative effects of face coverings. Thirty of the 44 studies related to both surgical and N95 masks, while only 10 pertained to face masks made of fabric.
The April 2021 IJERPH study noted that masks “also present an inhibition to habitual actions” such as eating, drinking, touching, scratching and cleaning the otherwise uncovered part of the face. It added that a face covering “is consciously and subconsciously perceived as a permanent disturbance, obstruction and restriction.”
Study caused a stir in the medical community
The JAMA Pediatrics study mentioned “ample evidence” proving the harmful effects of prolonged mask use. Its authors concluded that “children should not be forced to wear them” in the first place. They continued: “We suggest that decision-makers weight the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurement accordingly.”
The study caused a stir within the medical community, with experts holding debates about it. A report by Just the News continued that the experts also tackled the scant number of studies on whether masks have indeed benefited schoolchildren. A number of schools required children to mask up when in-person classes resumed.
Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Stefan Baral asked fellow epidemiologist Tracy Hoeg if sharing the study made him an anti-masker. Hoeg was a co-author of a paper that looked at the low risk of COVID-19 spread in schools with masked children. In response, Hoeg said the JAMA Pediatrics study did not provide “the implications of these CO2 levels” or an “unmasked baseline group by age.” This led her to question why the journal even published it in the first place.
University of California San Francisco epidemiologist Vinay Prasad tweeted: “[One] year later and no one has shown that asking kids to wear masks works.” He cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending children two to five years old wear masks. “They need to do a trial to prove it. I bet it will fail,” Prasad wrote.
Meanwhile, blogger Jennifer Cabrera said there were two better questions to ask about the matter. She pointed out why studies used to promote masking do not have a control group. Cabrera also noted why researchers have not studied the effects of wearing masks all day.
Cabrera helped coordinate a group of Florida parents to get their children’s school-required face masks tested in June 2021. The said masks were sent to the University of Florida‘s Mass Spectrometry Research and Education Center for testing. Laboratory tests found that “pathogenic bacteria” that caused diseased such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis clung to the masks.