Contaminated Masks and Your Children

In many jurisdictions, children have been and continue to be forced to wear face masks while attending school with the belief that mask wearing will minimize the potential spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in some cases, for the entirety of their school day.  Recently, a group of parents concerned about the potential harm being caused to their children by masking, submitted six face masks to a laboratory for analysis.  Let's look at the results.

The face masks in the study were either new or freshly-laundered before they were worn by children aged six to eleven for between five and eight hours (average 5.7 hours) mostly during in-person schooling with one mask being worn by an adult.  As controls, a t-shirt that was worn by one of the children while attending school was submitted for analysis and unworn masks were also submitted for analysis to ensure that the masks weren't contaminated prior to being worn.  All of the masks and the t-shirt were sent to the University of Florida's Mass Spectrometry Research and Education Center for analysis.

Here are two examples of how the masks were prepared for analysis:

Let's look at the results.  Let's start by looking at the controls; no pathogens were found on any of the controls and the non-pathogenic (to humans) proteins found on the t-shirt are commonly found in soil, skin and hair.  Of the six masks that were worn for an average of 5.7 hours per day, 83 percent were contaminated with 96 unique strains of which 21 were pathogenic and 33 percent were contaminated with antibiotic resistant strains.  None of the masks tested positive for viruses.

Here is a list of eleven dangerous pathogens that were found on the masks and the diseases that they can cause:

1.) Streptococcus pneumoniae – causes pneumonia

2.) Mycobacterium tuberculosis – causes tuberculosis 

3.) Neisseria meningitidis (Serogroups A, B and C) – extremely pathogenic – causes meningitis and life-threatening sepsis 

4.)  Acanthamoeba polyphaga – causes keratitis and granulomatous amebic encephalitis

5.) Acinetobacter baumanni – causes pneumonia, blood stream infections, meningitis, wound and surgical site infections, keratitis and granulomatous amebic encephalitis – resistant to antibiotics

6.) Escherichia coli (aka E. coli) – causes food poisoning

7.) Borrelia burgdorferi – causes Lyme disease

8.) Corynebacterium diphtheriae – causes diphtheria

9.) Legionella pneumophila – causes Legionnaires' disease 

10.) Staphylococcus pyogenes serotype M3  – causes severe infections—high morbidity rates 

11.) Staphylococcus aureus – causes a wide range of illnesses from minor skin infections to life-threatening pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis

As well, Rickettsia rickettsia bacteria which causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was found. 

Here is a further breakdown of the results:

1.) Half of the masks were contaminated with one or more strains of pneumonia-causing bacteria.

2.) One-third of the masks were contaminated with one or more strains of meningitis-causing bacteria.

3.) One-third of the masks were contaminated with dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria

4.) Less dangerous pathogens were also found including those that can cause fevers, acne, yeast infections, ulcers and periodontal disease.

Admittedly, while it is a small study, not surprisingly, it appears that masks worn by children (and I'm guessing the same thing could be said for adults) are a biological soup of harmful bacteria after less than six hours of use.  Just imagine what is infesting masks that have been worn for longer periods without laundering or changing.  With children being forced to wear face masks during school hours and, in some cases, on the bus ride to and from school, the warm, damp environment created by masks on children's (and, again, adult's) faces is far from a healthy practice given that science is showing that face masks are ineffective at stopping the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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