The N95 surgical mask has long been considered the “gold standard” for protection against Covid-19.
However, a study published by the National Institutes of Health indicates that the use of these medical-grade masks could expose users to dangerous levels of toxic volatile organic compounds (TVOCs).
South Korean researchers at Jeonbuk National University examined several types of medical-grade disposable masks, including several reusable cotton masks. They found that the chemicals emitted by these masks exceeded the recommended safety levels for TVOCs by eight times. Breathing TVOC can cause headaches and nausea, and long-term exposure has been associated with organ damage and even cancer.
“It is clear that special attention must be paid to the VOCs associated with the use of KF94 [medical] masks its effects on human health,” said the study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.
The researchers offered a solution to reduce these risks: “Exposure can be significantly reduced by opening a mask and letting it sit for at least 30 minutes,” they advised. This implies that the packaging process of these masks could contribute to the high chemical levels.
The National Institutes of Health made it clear that including the study in their database does not mean they endorse its findings. Cloth masks were found to pose far fewer risks, containing 14 times less TVOCs than their disposable counterparts. KF94 is the “Korean filter” standard similar to the US N95 mask rating.
New York-based internal medicine physician Dr. Stuart Fischer told the Daily Mail that the study should not be the sole basis for any firm conclusions, but noted that the evidence it highlights the disadvantages of wearing a mask are increasing. He said “there appears to be a diminishing return on the need for masks.”
In the study, the researchers tested 14 different types of masks, including the disposable KFAD and KF94 models popular in South Korea, and cloth masks made of various materials. They found that disposable masks had up to 14 times more TVOCs than cotton masks, far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended limit of 0.5 parts per million.
TVOCs, commonly found in household products such as aerosols and cleaning agents, can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and damage organs, according to the American Lung Association. Even certain TVOCs are considered carcinogenic.
Limitations of the study include a small sample size and a focus on specific types of masks, leaving out others such as the KN95 commonly used in the US. However, it adds to a growing body of research questioning the overall effectiveness and potential downsides of wearing masks. especially as new variants of Covid spread and institutions reconsider mask mandates.
Dr Fischer summed up the debate, stating: “Extreme fears about the lethality of Covid may have led to decisions that were counterproductive.” He added: “Covid will not go away for a long time, if ever. We desperately need policies that do not fracture our society while providing minimal protection.”
It should be noted that South Korea had 33,800,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 out of a population of 51,700,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, despite nearly 99% mask compliance. The masks failed even basic correlation tests for claims that they “stop the spread.”
In November 2022, a randomized control trial (RCT) was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The results of the RCT study dealt a blow to proponents of N95 and surgical masks as effective means of “stopping Covid”.
As detailed in the study, 1009 healthcare workers in four countries who provided direct care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 were given N95 respirators or medical masks and were followed up over 9 weeks. The study was unable to “blind” participants due to visible differences in the masks.
The most critical and surprising finding of the study is that N95 respirators did not significantly outperform “medical masks.” The results were based on the PCR test for Covid-19 infection and the nucleocapsid antibody test (which reveals exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus).
In addition, adverse events were reported for 11% of all medical mask wearers and 13.6% for all N95 respirator wearers. These AEs include: discomfort, skin irritation, and headaches.
An international team of scientists published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that wearing masks can cause significant health problems. Researchers published a meta-analysis of 2,168 studies on adverse effects of medical masks, the largest of its kind. They found a statistically significant decrease in oxygen intake, increased carbon dioxide, increased heart rate, increased shortness of breath, dizziness, and skin irritation. Mask use was associated with a 62% increase in headaches.
“Of the 2,168 records selected, 54 studies were included for the qualitative analysis and 37 for the statistical meta-analysis,” the authors noted. “Among the 54 studies, 23 were intervention studies and 31 were observational studies. The 23 intervention studies consisted of 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and nine non-randomized controlled trials (nRCTs). Of the 31 observational studies, 17 papers they raised measured values and 14 were questionnaire studies.”
“Of the 54 included studies, 51 reported numerous mask adverse effects across multiple clinical disciplines, as already collected in a previous scoping review,” the authors added. “Also 14 of the 17 studies, which were not included in the meta-analysis, reported these numerous masking effects.”
“Overall, our systematic review found mask-related symptoms that can be classified under the previously described mask-induced exhaustion syndrome (MIES), with typical changes and symptoms often seen in combination,” they added .
In addition, the researchers found that symptoms were more common and more severe with N95 masks.
“In line with the recent findings of Kisielinski et al. (14) and Sukul et al. (26), the present results clearly show that N95 masks produce significantly more pronounced and unfavorable biochemical, physiological, and psychological effects than surgical masks” , say the authors. “Overall, the results in blood oxygenation, discomfort, heart rate, CO2, effort, humidity, blood pressure, VE, temperature, dyspnea and itching, etc. can be attributed to the larger dead space (almost double) and the greater breathing resistance of the N95 mask. Compared with the surgical mask on the short-term effects, N95 masks could impose high health risks with prolonged use.”
“Interestingly, recent data from a large multinational RCT study show no significant differences between the two types of masks in terms of SARS-CoV-2 infection rates,” the authors add. “However, there was a long-standing application of N95 masks in, for example, Austria and Germany.”
Last week, Morris Brown College in Atlanta revealed plans to re-impose a mask requirement, despite having no known cases of Covid on campus. Similarly, California-based movie studio Lionsgate initially announced it would reinstate mask mandates for specific offices in Santa Monica. After receiving criticism, Lionsgate reversed the decision, claiming they had managed to control the alleged spread of Covid.
But for those who believe that surgical masks and cloth masks are a useful alternative, the following are medical experts who tell the truth about them.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA chief who quickly stepped down from office to become a Pfizer board member, appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in January 2022 and denied the myth of the mask.
“Cloth masks aren’t going to provide much protection, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “This is an airborne disease. We understand that now. And a cloth mask won’t protect you from an airborne virus. It might protect better through droplet transmission, something like the flu, but not this coronavirus.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci had once shared an assessment as candid as Gottlieb’s about the effectiveness of masks in a February 2020 email to an HHS official.
“Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading the infection to people who are not infected rather than to protect uninfected people from getting the infection,” he wrote in the email.
“The typical mask you buy at the drugstore is not really effective at keeping out the virus, which is small enough to get through the material,” he said. “However, it might provide a slight benefit in avoiding dirty droplets if someone coughs or sneezes.”
CNN medical contributor Dr. Leanna Wen said, “Don’t wear a cloth mask. Cloth masks are little more than face decorations. There is no place for them in the Omicron light.”
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, calls for mass civil disobedience if public health “experts” try again to impose mask mandates, despite non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) having failed spectacularly to stop the spread of Covid- 19 in the United States and around the world.
Specifically, Florida’s health chief has urged the public to oppose the “terrible policies” surrounding mask mandates and advised Americans to “refuse to participate.”
Disturbing signs are emerging. Covid lockdowns, mask mandates are coming back
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OPINION: This article contains comments that reflect the opinion of the author.