By Paul Elias Alexander, MSc, PhD, Liesel-Marie Alexander, MBA
Note: This column is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1, “Face masks for children: Both ineffective and dangerous.”
What can we say about the harms masks do to children? Is there any evidence that could inform parents about dangers of these masks, whose ineffectiveness we have established in Part 1?
We wish to raise some key issues. During April to October 2020 in the U.S., emergency room visits linked to mental health problems (e.g., anxiety) for children aged 5-11 increased by nearly 25% and increased by 31% for those aged 12-17 years old as compared to the same period in 2019. During the month of June 2020, 25% of persons aged 18 to 24 in the U.S. reported suicidal ideation. While some of this may be related to the pandemic, we suspect that it is largely a function of our response to the pandemic. Child suicides have escalated in the U.S. due to the lockdowns and school closures.
One of the most starkly revealing and troubling observations come from Margarite Griesz-Brisson, M.D., Ph.D., who is one of Europe’s leading neurologists and neurophysiologists focused on neurotoxicology, environmental medicine, neuro-regeneration and neuroplasticity. She has gone on record stating: “The rebreathing of our exhaled air will without a doubt create oxygen deficiency and a flooding of carbon dioxide. We know that the human brain is very sensitive to oxygen deprivation.” There are neurons, for example, in the hippocampus that cannot survive more than three minutes without an adequate supply of oxygen. Given that such cells are so sensitive to oxygen deprivation, their functionality must be affected by low oxygen levels.
Oxygen deprivation can cause metabolic changes, and the metabolic changes that happen in neuronal cells are vitally important for cognitive functioning and brain plasticity, and it is known that when drastic metabolic shifts occur in the brain, there are consequent changes of oxidative stress (cellular oxidative state). These have a significant role in managing neuron functioning (we do not claim that masking would produce complete absence of oxygen, of course).
The acute warning symptoms are headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, reduced ability to concentrate and reductions in cognitive function. Given that neurodegenerative diseases can take years to develop, what are the potentially deleterious effects of the use of masks, especially in children, when they are affixed to the face over the majority of their day? We, particularly parents, must consider this and weigh the benefits versus the harms. Are there benefits enough to warrant use relative to the potential harms? If the harms outweigh the benefits, then we cannot in good conscience advocate for mask use. Moreover, the continual and stressful impacts of masking (and school closures) will also have a known and deleterious impact on the immune systems in children (and adults).
Other medical harms relate to the notion that children and adolescents have an extremely active and adaptive immune system, a robust developing system that must be challenged in order to retain functionality. Yet by severely restricting children’s activities because of lockdowns and masking (physical activity/fitness exercises are almost impossible whilst wearing a mask), we are probably hobbling their immune systems. We may be setting our children up for future “excess” morbidity due to these societal restrictions by weakening their immune systems. Evidence indicates that regular physical activity and frequent exercise enhance immune competency and regulation.
A child unexposed to nature has little defense against a minor illness, which can become overwhelming due to the lack of a primed “tuned-up” and taxed immune system. A robust immune system shortens an illness as a consequence of the presence of preprogrammed anamnestic immunity. Preventing children from such interactions with nature and germs can and does lead to overwhelming infections and serious consequences to the health and life of a child.
We might be setting up our children for future disaster when they emerge from societal restrictions fully and with no masks, to then be at the mercy of normally benign opportunistic infections with a now weakened immune system. This cannot be disregarded as we consider the consequences of our actions today in this pandemic and the questionable lockdowns, school closures and mask policies.
A German-wide registry (not the optimal highest-quality study) used by 20,353 parents who reported on data from almost 26,000 children, found that the “average wearing time of the mask was 270 minutes per day. Impairments caused by wearing the mask were reported by 68% of the parents. These included 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%).”
Concerns are being raised regarding psychological damage and why a mask is not “just a mask.” There is tremendous psychological damage to infants and children, with potential catastrophic impacts on the cognitive development. This is even more critical in relation to children with special needs or those within the autism spectrum who need to be able to recognize facial expressions as part of their ongoing development. The accumulating evidence also suggests that prolonged mask use in children or adults can cause harms, so much so that Dr. Blaylock states, “The bottom line is that [if] you are not sick, you should not wear a mask.” Furthermore, Blaylock writes, “By wearing a mask, the exhaled viruses will not be able to escape and will concentrate in the nasal passages, enter the olfactory nerves and travel into the brain.”
Emergent reports, albeit nascent and anecdotal but nevertheless vitally important (and which will be clarified and defined in time), regarding the manufacture of masks show that, “Many of them (face masks) are made of polyester, so you have a microplastic problem. … many of the face masks would contain polyester with chlorine compounds … If I have the mask in front of my face, then of course I inhale the microplastic directly, and these substances are much more toxic than if you swallow them, as they get directly into the nervous system.”
Of particular concern is a recent report addressing breathing in synthetic fibers in the face masks. This is of serious concern:
“Loose particulate was seen on each type of mask. Also, tight and loose fibers were seen on each type of mask. If every foreign particle and every fiber in every face mask is always secure and not detachable by airflow, then there should be no risk of inhalation of such particles and fibers. However, if even a small portion of mask fibers is detachable by inspiratory airflow, or if there is debris in mask manufacture or packaging or handling, then there is the possibility of not only entry of foreign material to the airways, but also entry to deep lung tissue, and potential pathological consequences of foreign bodies in the lungs.”
Reports are that “graphene is a strong, very thin material that is used in fabrication, but it can be harmful to lungs when inhaled and can cause long-term health problems.” We argue that there is a risk of potential future inflammatory/fibrotic lung diseases because we are inhaling these materials in the masks now for over one year with more duration to come and no end in sight. These substances might also be highly carcinogenic. Not just for us as adults, but we must be very concerned about the risks especially to our children since they depend on us as mentors and guides for their decision-making. It is our children that we are very concerned for.
These blue surgical masks pervade our lives. “Health Canada has issued a warning about blue and gray disposable face masks, which contain an asbestos-like substance associated with ‘early pulmonary toxicity.’ The warning is specific to potentially toxic masks distributed within schools and daycares across Quebec. Health Canada (and full praise to them) … ‘discovered during a preliminary risk assessment that the masks contain microscopic graphene particles that, when inhaled, could cause severe lung damage.'”
Reports are that “for a while now, some day care educators had expressed suspicion about the masks, which were causing children to feel as though they were swallowing cat hair while wearing them. We now know that instead of cat hair, children were inhaling the equivalent of asbestos all day long.”
That substance appears to be graphene. What is indeed alarming is that “the SNN200642 masks that were being used all across Canada in school classrooms had never been tested for safety or effectiveness.” This is indeed a catastrophic failure by the regulators as these surgical face masks, again, are linked to early pulmonary toxicity.
Inhaled plastics will degrade very slowly over time, and as such, in the lungs it may remain and build up to dangerous levels. We do not even know what is an “acceptable” level, for there should be none, zero! There is debate that the immune system can attack such foreign objects, thus driving prolonged inflammation which may lead to diseases such as cancer. And reused masks, which pervade our daily lives, based on our personal experiences, do produce more loosened fibers.
Dr. Richard Urso showed us just how dangerous these are by putting them under a microscope, revealing the melt-blown polypropylene plastic. Some masks even contain fiberglass, and this is very dangerous to inhale.
As parents, we must step back and question many of these decisions we are making about masks. If it does not seem right, then you have to push back and question and demand the science; demand the data from these seemingly untethered experts.
We certainly are not getting the due diligence and protection from public health experts, the relevant health agencies and policy makers that we need. They are failing us! COVID-19 has crystallized this. The government leaders are quick to tell us that they are relying on the advice of these experts in their advisory groups, which seem incapable of reading the science or are just blinded to it. It is an academic sloppiness and cognitive dissonance that is terrifying.
Moreover, the mass media seem incapable of doing the investigative type of journalism to fully inform the populace on what the public needs to know.
We close by reiterating the warning in the JAMA publication: “Face masks should not be worn by healthy individuals to protect themselves from acquiring respiratory infection because there is no evidence to suggest that face masks worn by healthy individuals are effective in preventing people from becoming ill.” We raise this issue of potential harm from face masks as a public health warning and call on the public to make its own relevant risk-management decisions, weighing the benefits versus the harms (downsides) of such a course of action – especially with the surgical masks (blue) or similar that quickly get moisture-laden with use and whose fibers tend to get loose and may enter the mouth and nose.
In sum, as mentioned, the optimal comparative research on harms has not sufficiently accumulated, but what has been reported is sufficient to inform and guide us in our debate on the potential harms of mask use (surgical and cloth), especially in children. But we do have real-world evidence. While additional evidence will help clarify the extent of risk, the existing details are sobering enough and of tremendous utility. Even the potential of minimal harm is enough to prevent justification of such use.
The public remains confused by all of the mask messaging from senior medical experts across the U.S., with a renewed push to mask in light of the delta variant. This can be exemplified by comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci very early on in the pandemic (March 2020) as part of his COVID-19 Task Force role when he stated categorically that, “wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better” but “it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think it is.” Then and now, he actually echoed the current scientific consensus, and this was in line with the World Health Organization’s guidance.
The guidance coming from experts was confusing at best and downright unscientific and flawed at worst. Interestingly, this type of advice (also given by others including Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam), was changed (initially dismissive of mask use) under the notion that in fact the experts were intentionally saying these things so as to prevent runs on surgical masks that were in short supply at the time and needed by healthcare workers. We put forward the notion that this is not the case and that in fact at that time, the experts actually were relying on available data as alluded to above. All this is to say that such changes in advice provided by top medical experts only served to confuse a public desperately in need of honesty and optimal guidance.
We argue strongly against the masking of our children especially as they prepare to re-enter school, as it is ineffective and can be potentially very harmful. We challenge any prior Task Force member or medical expert (Trump administration) or current Task Force member (Biden administration) to provide us the evidence that masks and mandates work and are effective in curbing transmission or deaths, and that they are not harmful. We have searched long and hard and cannot find any such evidence.
We implore all government leaders and so-called medical experts to include risk-benefit analyses each and any time they seek to advocate for or implement societal policies such as mask mandates. For these types of public health policies that have all been shown to be catastrophic failures, we must have evidence of the benefits as well as well as harms and must examine the trade-offs and, most importantly, consider the implications to the public.
If the policy is destructive, you must end it!
Paul Elias Alexander, PhD, an expert in epidemiology, evidence-based medicine and research methodology, is an independent academic scientist and consultant. He has been a professor at McMaster University in evidence-based medicine, COVID pandemic adviser to WHO-PAHO in Washington, D.C., and senior adviser on COVID pandemic policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. He did graduate studies at the University of Oxford in England, the University of Toronto in Canada, McMaster University in Canada, and York University in Canada.
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