Children who wear face masks can inhale dangerous levels of carbon dioxide within a matter of minutes, according to a study published in a leading medical journal, JAMA Pediatrics.
In a randomized clinical trial, the researchers measured CO2 levels in a lab setting using two types of mouth and nose coverings on children ages 6 to 17 years and compared the results with those who had no face coverings. The German Federal Environmental Office considers .2 percent by volume or 2,000 ppm of CO2 to be an acceptable level in a closed room. After 3 minutes, the children with the masks exceeded this standard by a factor of 6, and the youngest children had the highest levels. One 7-year-old participant’s CO2 level measured 25,000 ppm.
The researchers point out that children have been ordered to wear masks much longer than three minutes.
“We suggest that decision-makers weigh the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurements accordingly, which suggest that children should not be forced to wear face masks,” the researchers write in the report, published online.
On July 16, JAMA Pediatrics retracted the study due to “numerous scientific issues.” A similar retraction occurred in 2020 when authors in the New England Journal of Medicine wrote a disclaimer about their article questioning the effectiveness of masks in controlling viruses in public settings.
Lifting the Mask Wand
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear masks in most settings. The news came as a surprise to several states where governors were hoping to use the threat of mask mandates to convince more people, including children, to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of July 1, 29 states that had broad mask mandates in place no longer required them for vaccinated individuals, while 11 states never imposed broad mask orders. In private industry, mask orders vary. For example, Walt Disney World still requires masking in most areas, and Simon Property Group announced it would continue to follow state or local regulations.
Children Not Exempt
Even as masks are called off for vaccinated adults, U.S. health authorities are continuing the call for masking the nation’s least COVID-vulnerable population. Children, recognized internationally as very low risk for serious complications from COVID-19, continue to be held accountable to unvaccinated adult guidelines.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky released a statement regarding teens and masks.
“Until they are fully vaccinated, adolescents should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who are not vaccinated to protect themselves, and their family, friends, and community,” Walensky stated.
Schools have the authority to implement their own mask policies depending on state and local rules. According to Burbio’s state mask policy tracker, 17 percent of school districts cannot legally require masks, 42 percent have flexible authority although mandates were lifted in the state, and seven percent require masks for unvaccinated individuals. Thirty-four percent of states have mask mandates for all schools.
Masks and Bacteria
Masks on children can cause other problems.
“Somebody finally cultured the masks that children are forced to wear and found, not surprisingly, that they are contaminated with all manner of pathogens,” said Jane Orient, M.D., the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. “Many masks shed fibers that children inhale, with possible long-term effects on their lungs. Then there is a limited gas exchange which probably has caused a few deaths in children forced to masks while exercising. There are serious psychological harms. I have seen no evidence whatsoever of benefits to children.”
In Gainesville, Florida, six parents sent their child’s face mask to the University of Florida for lab testing. The children were masked for most of their school day. Pathogen testing found common bacteria that causes acne, gingivitis, yeast infections, strep throat, and e. coli, and less common, antibiotic-resistant meningitis- and pneumonia-causing bacteria.
The university issued a statement in response to the findings, which had garnered national attention.
“It is important to note that we had no way of establishing the chain of custody for these masks and to what conditions they were exposed prior to the lab test,” the statement reads. “To draw any conclusions is premature and a more controlled, peer-reviewed research is warranted.”
The statement then directed attention to the CDC’s masking recommendations, even as the agency continues to evolve away from masks.
In New Jersey, a school nurse was reportedly suspended after refusing to enforce student masking guidelines. Erin Pein treated children who had been wearing masks for days without removal, wearing dirt and vomit-covered masks, and complaining of mask-related breathing problems and other issues.
“In a hospital, personnel are supposed to use masks properly, though the rules have often been thrown away recently: no touching, change often, dispose of properly,” Orient said. “Just putting a contaminated mask over your face is far more likely to expose you to pathogens than to protect you from them.”
Masking and vaccination have stoked fires on both sides of the political divide.
“Around the world, masks have taken on a symbolic meaning distinct from their function as a means of preventing the spread of disease — and also, crucially, a political one,” writes Kat Rosenfield in the online publication, UnHerd. “But nowhere has the issue become more detached from reality, more partisan than in America, where public health advice that should be celebrated—as a sign that the virus is finally on the way out — has been met with outrage.”
“By issuing differing directives for the vaccinated and unvaccinated, the CDC is attempting to cast shame on those who must continue to wear masks,” writes Doug Mainwaring, a journalist for LifeSiteNews. “For those of us who have no intention of being vaccinated, we are all Hester Prynnes now, wearing the 21st-century version of The Scarlet Letter…a psychological tactic to isolate and dehumanize.”
This article was updated July 16, 2021.
Ashley Bateman (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Virginia.
Harald Walach, Ronald Weikle, M.D. Juliane Prentice, et. al., “Experimental Assessment of Carbon Dioxide Content in Inhaled Air with or without Face Masks in Healthy Children, a Randomized Clinical Trial, “JAMA Network, June 30, 2021.