Peer-reviewed research concludes face masks are useless and dangerous

research-says-masks-useless
  1. A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers.
  2. Preliminary report on surgical mask induced deoxygenation during major surgery.
  3. The physiological impact of wearing an N95 mask during hemodialysis as a precaution against SARS in patients with end-stage renal disease.
  4. The Physiological Impact of N95 Masks on Medical Staff.
  5. N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial.
  6. A cluster randomized clinical trial comparing fit-tested and non-fit-tested N95 respirators to medical masks to prevent respiratory virus infection in health care workers.
  7. Cluster randomised controlled trial to examine medical mask use as source control for people with respiratory illness.
  8. The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence.
  9. Evaluating the efficacy of cloth facemasks in reducing particulate matter exposure.
  10. Effects of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) on N95 Respirator Filtration Performance and Structural Integrity.
  11. Evaluation of N95 respirator use with a surgical mask cover: effects on breathing resistance and inhaled carbon dioxide.
  12. Facemasks for the prevention of infection in healthcare and community settings.
  13. History of surgical face masks.
  14. Evaluating the efficacy of cloth facemasks in reducing particulate matter exposure.
  15. Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks.
  16. Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial.
  17. Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory.
  18. N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial.
  19. Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Michael Gaeta.

Here are key anchor points to the extensive scientific literature that establishes that wearing surgical masks and respirators (e.g., “N95”) does not reduce the risk of contracting a verified illness:

• Jacobs, J. L. et al. (2009) “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: A randomized controlled trial,” American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 37, Issue 5, 417 – 419.
N95-masked health-care workers (HCW) were significantly more likely to experience headaches. Face mask use in HCW was not demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.
• Cowling, B. et al. (2010) “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review,” Epidemiology and Infection, 138(4), 449-456. DOI:10.1017/S0950268809991658
None of the studies reviewed showed the benefit of wearing a mask in either HCW or community members in households (H). See summary Tables 1 and 2 therein.
• bin-Reza et al. (2012), “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence,” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 6(4), 257-267.
“There were 17 eligible studies. […] None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.”
• Smith, J.D. et al. (2016) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, CMAJ Mar 2016, cmaj.150835; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.150835
“We identified 6 clinical studies … In the meta-analysis of the clinical studies, we found no significant difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks in the associated risk of (a) laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, (b) influenza-like illness, or (c) reported work-place absenteeism.”
• Offeddu, V. et al. (2017) “Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 11, 1 December 2017, Pages 1934-1942, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix681
• Radonovich, L.J. et al. (2019) “N95 Respirators vs. Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial”, JAMA. 2019; 322(9): 824-833. DOI:10.1001/jama.2019.11645
“Among 2862 randomized participants, 2371, completed the study and accounted for 5180 HCW-seasons. … Among outpatient health care personnel, N95 respirators vs. medical masks as worn by participants in this trial resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
• Long, Y. et al. (2020) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks against influenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis”, J Evid Based Med. 2020; 1- 9. https://doi.org/10.1111/jebm.12381

No RCT study with verified outcome shows a benefit for HCW or community members in households to wearing a mask or respirator. There is no such study. There are no exceptions. Likewise, no study exists that shows a benefit from a broad policy to wear masks in public.

Furthermore, if there were any benefit to wearing a mask, because of the blocking power against droplets and aerosol particles, then there should be more benefit from wearing a respirator (N95) compared to a surgical mask, yet several large meta-analyses, and all the RCT, prove that there is no such relative benefit. Masks and respirators do not work.

Many potential harms may arise from broad public policies to wear masks, and the following unanswered questions arise:

• Do used and loaded masks become sources of enhanced transmission, for the wearer and others?
• Do masks become collectors and retainers of pathogens that the mask wearer would otherwise avoid when breathing without a mask?
• Are large droplets captured by a mask atomized or aerosolized into breathable components? Can virions escape an evaporating droplet stuck to a mask fiber?
• What are the dangers of bacterial growth on a used and loaded mask?
• How do pathogen-laden droplets interact with environmental dust and aerosols captured on the mask?
• What are long-term health effects on HCW, such as headaches, arising from impeded breathing?
• Are there negative social consequences to a masked society?
• Are there negative psychological consequences of wearing a mask, as a fear-based behavioral modification?
• What are the environmental consequences of mask manufacturing and disposal?
• Do the masks shed fibers or substances that are harmful when inhaled?

Photo from Edward Jenner on Pexels.

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