After a year of questionable advice on masking, ranging from head-scratching and mildly amusing to outright laughable — such as Spain mandating use of face masks while swimming in the ocean — health experts who counter the prevailing narrative on universal masking are finally getting some airtime in the mainstream media.
In an April 22, 2021, article in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope cites several doctors and virologists who advise against universal mask wearing outdoors.
Health Experts Weigh in on Outdoor Mask Wearing
Among them is Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert on viral transmission mechanics, who notes that brief outdoor encounters, such as walking past someone on a sidewalk or hiking trail, present a “very low risk” for transmission.
“Viral particles quickly disperse in outdoor air, and the risk of inhaling aerosolized virus from a jogger or passers-by is negligible,” Marr told Parker-Pope.“Even if a person coughs or sneezes outside as you walk by, the odds of you getting a large enough dose of virus to become infected remain low.”
Similarly, Dr. Muge Cevic, a clinical lecturer of infectious disease and medical virology at the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine in Scotland, is quoted saying:
“I think it’s a bit too much to ask people to put the mask on when they go out for a walk or jogging or cycling. We’re in a different stage of the pandemic. I think outdoor masks should not have been mandated at all. It’s not where the infection and transmission occurs.”
Parker-Pope also quotes Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center:
“Let me go for my run, maskless … Given how conservative I have been on my opinions all year, this should tell you how low [the] risk is, in general, for outdoors transmission for contact over short periods …”
Researchers Set the Record Straight
Parker-Pope goes on to cite research published in February 2021 in the Environmental Research journal:
“To understand just how low the risk of outdoor transmission is, researchers in Italy used mathematical models to calculate the amount of time it would take for a person to become infected outdoors in Milan.
They imagined a grim scenario in which 10% of the population was infected with the coronavirus. Their calculations showed that if a person avoided crowds, it would take, on average, 31.5 days of continuous outdoor exposure to inhale a dose of virus sufficient to transmit infection.
‘The results are that this risk is negligible in outdoor air if crowds and direct contact among people are avoided,’ said Daniele Contini, senior author of the study and an aerosol scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate in Lecce, Italy.
Even as more-infectious virus variants circulate, the physics of viral transmission outdoors haven’t changed, and the risk of getting infected outdoors is still low, say virus experts.”
Other research has shown your odds of transmitting COVID-19 are 18.7 times greater indoors than in an open-air environment. Several investigations looking at SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in air have also come up empty, including air samplings done in various locations in Wuhan, China, Venice in northern Italy, and Lecce in southern Italy.
The Problems We Ignore When Mandating Masks
Aside from all the research demonstrating that mask wearing is an ineffective and largely pointless strategy against respiratory viruses — there’s the issue of potential adverse effects.
This part of the equation has been roundly ignored since the very beginning, even though there are both environmental drawbacks to universal mask use and individual health hazards, including the following:
Wearing a face mask increases breathing resistance, and since it makes both inhaling and exhaling more difficult, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions may be at risk of a medical emergency if wearing a face mask.
This includes those with shortness of breath, lung disease, panic attacks, breathing difficulties, chest pain on exertion, cardiovascular disease, fainting spells, claustrophobia, chronic bronchitis, heart problems, asthma, allergies, diabetes, seizures, high blood pressure and those with pacemakers. The impact of wearing a face mask during pregnancy is also wholly unknown.
Face masks can reduce oxygen intake, leading to potentially hazardous oxygen deficiency (hypoxia).
They also cause rapid accumulation of harmful carbon dioxide, which can have significant cognitive and physical impacts. Germany’s first registry recording the effects mask wearing has on children, has identified 24 physical, psychological and behavioral health issues associated with wearing masks. Recorded symptoms include:
“… irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), less happiness (49%), reluctance to go to school/kindergarten (44%), malaise (42%), impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%).”
Of the 25,930 children included in the registry, 29.7% reported feeling short of breath, 26.4% being dizzy and 17.9% were unwilling to move or play. Hundreds more experienced “accelerated respiration, tightness in chest, weakness and short-term impairment of consciousness.”
Wearing a face mask increases your body temperature and physical stress, which could result in an elevated temperature reading that is not related to infection.
All face masks can cause bacterial and fungal infections in the user as warm, moist air accumulates inside the mask. This is the perfect breeding ground for pathogens. This is why disposable medical masks were designed for short-duration, specific-task use only, after which they are supposed to be discarded.
Medical doctors have warned that bacterial pneumonia, facial rashes, fungal infections on the face, “mask mouth” (symptoms of which include bad breath, tooth decay and gum inflammation) and candida mouth infections are all on the rise.
A study published in the February 2021 issue of the journal Cancer Discovery also found that the presence of microbes in your lungs can worsen lung cancer pathogenesis and can contribute to advanced stage lung cancer. The same types of bacteria, primarily Veillonella, Prevotella, and Streptococcus bacteria, can also be cultivated through prolonged mask wearing.
With extended use, medical masks will begin to break down and release chemicals that are then inhaled. Tiny microfibers are also released, which can cause health problems when inhaled. This hazard was highlighted in a performance study being published in the June 2021 issue of Journal of Hazardous Materials.
Mask mandates also represent another erosion of freedom, and normalizes the false notion that people are sick unless proven healthy, and that it’s acceptable to be forced to cover your face just to go about your daily life, even when you’re outdoors.
The Only Type of Mask That Is Safe and Effective
To provide any benefit whatsoever, users must be fitted with the right type and size of respirator, and must undergo fit testing by a trained professional. However, N95 respirators, even when fitted properly, will not protect against viral exposures but can adequately protect against larger particles.
Surgical masks, which do not seal to your face, do not filter out anything. They are designed to prevent bacteria from the mouth, nose and face from entering the patient during surgical procedures, and researchers have warned that contaminated surgical masks actually pose an infection risk. After just two hours, a significant increase in bacterial load on the mask was observed.
Nonmedical cloth masks are not only ineffective, but also particularly dangerous as they’re not engineered for effective purging of exhaled carbon dioxide, making them wholly unsuitable for use.
The only type of mask that is actually safe and effective to wear is the gas mask kind of respirator you’d use to protect yourself against painting fumes, organic vapors, smoke and dust. These respirators are built to filter the air you breathe in, and to get rid of the carbon dioxide and humidity from the air you breathe out, thereby ensuring there’s no dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide or reduction in oxygen inside the mask.
Yes. That about sums it up.