CheckMate: Does a new study really show that masks are detrimental to human health? (2023)

CheckMate is a weekly newsletter fromRMIT FactLabrecapping the latest in the world of fact checking and misinformation. It draws on the work of FactLab's researchers and journalists, including itsCrossCheckunit, and of its sister organisation,RMIT ABC Fact Check.

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CheckMate April 28, 2023

This week, we ask the experts about supposedly "explosive" new research on face masks and health risks.

We also bring you a fact check on a claim about the gender pay gap from Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, and look into the murky world of AI-generated music.

Experts weigh in on 'explosive' mask study

CheckMate: Does a new study really show that masks are detrimental to human health? (1)

Experts have expressed doubt over a new research paper purportedly showing that face masks "may raise the risk of stillbirths, testicular dysfunction and cognitive decline in children".

The paper, authored by German researchers and featured in a sensational Daily Mail article that described the findings as "explosive", reviewed numerous studies regarding carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure and face masks.

According to University of Wollongong epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, it then "used some rodent research to speculate on how this [exposure] might cause issues to long-term health".

The Daily Mail article was shared widely online, including by former federal MP and current United Australia Party national director Craig Kelly.

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But Mr Meyerowitz-Katz, along with other experts, told CheckMate the study did not actually find any link between mask wearing and negative health outcomes.

"The study itself is a scoping review, and … does not prove much about masks," he said.

"At best, this might be useful to drive future research, but it's not the sort of methodology that can prove a causal connection, especially as none of the included studies actually measured the long-term health of people wearing masks."

James Trauer, who heads the epidemiological modelling unit at Monash University's School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said the methods used in the review were "not really adequate to the importance of the question" being investigated and didn't "justify the conclusions [the authors] arrived at".

As the paper was not a systematic review that followed established guidelines, he said it was "hard to know exactly what they've done", but noted that the absenceof any studies contradicting its main findings was "highly suspicious".

Running through those findings, Dr Trauer told CheckMate he was "happy to accept" that masks increase the amount of carbon dioxide inhaled by wearers and that — based on the studies listed — they "probably" increase the concentration of CO2 in humans.

It was, however, "very dubious" to conclude from the evidence presented that increased CO2 in animals leads to negative health effects, he said, adding that the paper contained "no evidence whatsoever" that increased CO2 in the blood leads to health problems in humans.

Indeed, given that scoping reviews aim to identify what evidence is out there, Dr Trauer said that "possibly the main conclusion … should be that they have not been able to identify any evidence of any health effects in humans from increased carbon dioxide".

When it came to the specific suggestion from the authors that mask wearing "may be related to current observations of stillbirths",Shaun Brennecke, director of the Department of Maternal-fetal Medicine at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, described the evidence as "very circumstantial" and "not in any way shape or form conclusive".

While there had indeed been a pandemic-era rise in stillbirths, he said, there was "no causative study amongst any of it to actually directly link [it with] face mask wearing".

Crucially, Professor Brennecke said that an Australian study referenced by the paper showed a rise in preterm stillbirths only, and not in stillbirths among term pregnancies.

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"If the face mask theory was likely to be significant," he said, "you would have expected [that] the women who reached term would also have had an increase in stillbirths, because they've actually been wearing masks longer than the women who were preterm."

The authors of the German paper have alsocome under scrutinyfrom US-based fact checkers at this week for a different paper that suggested long COVID symptoms may actually be the result of mask wearing.

Contrary to the paper's assertion, however, the fact checkers found there was "no evidence that face masks, when used as recommended, have a negative impact on the respiratory system that could lead to any serious health problems".

Finally, the Daily Mail article prominently features a link to another story which alleges that "wearing a mask can expose children to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in just three minutes".

That story, from July 2021, was based on a research letter that wasretracted by the publishing journal within a month(something made clear by the stamping of a "RETRACTED" watermark repeatedly across theoriginal letter).

Do algorithms dream of R&B?

Content generated by artificial intelligence made headlines again this week after a song featuring vocal tracks — sort of — from two of the world's biggest R&B stars took off on social media and streaming apps.

Uploaded to YouTube and Spotify by a user called "Ghostwriter" and clocking up more than 15 million views on TikTok, the song "Heart on my sleeve" usedgenerative AIto mimic the voices of artists The Weeknd and Drake in a collaboration to which neither consented.

While certainly not the first case of an artist's voice being plagiarised by the new technology (one recent example being an AI "Kanye West" covering the Justin Bieber hit Love Yourself),The New York Timeslabelled the Drake controversy "the latest and loudest example of a grey-area genre that has exploded in recent months" — namely, the creation of homemade tracks that use AI "to conjure familiar sounds that can be passed off as authentic, or at least close enough".

"It earned instant comparisons to earlier technologies that disrupted the music industry, including the dawn of the synthesiser, the sampler and the file-sharing service Napster," the article noted.

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Universal Music Group, the label representing both artists, took a dim view, however, as it swooped in to have the tracks removed from platforms.

In a statement, Universal said using its artists' music to train AI algorithms not only breached copyright law but also foreshadowed a reckoning in the music industry in which people would need to choose "which side of history" they were on: "the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or … the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation".

Looking beyond the art world, AI also made its first major foray into the US presidential election, with the Republican Party incorporating a series of AI-generated images into a new 2024 campaign video attacking President Joe Biden.

Alex Thompson, national political correspondent for the US news website Axios,wrote in a tweetthat the video was the party's first to use 100 per cent AI-generated images.

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It attempts to paint a dystopian picture of how the future might look if "the weakest president we've ever had were re-elected", suggesting it could include war over Taiwan, collapsing financial systems and escalating crime.

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Why there's more to the story with Peter Dutton's gender pay gap claim

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has been busily spruiking a long list of plans for the future as well as the Coalition's recent achievements, including its record on women's economic issues.

"Under Labor, the gender pay gap was at 17.4 per cent and reduced to 13.8 per cent on our watch," Mr Duttontoldthe national summit of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia on April 4.

But RMIT ABC Fact Check this week found there'smore to the storythan Mr Dutton's claim suggests.

Indeed, the gender pay gap was at 17.4 per cent when Labor left office in late 2013.

The pay gap also fell steadily during most of the Coalition's time in government, reaching 13.8 per cent in November 2021 (although it did rise again in the months prior to the May 2022 election and stood at 14.1 per cent when the Coalition was ousted).

That said, the gap also peaked during the Coalition's nine-year reign at 18.7 per cent, which was higher than at any time during the Rudd-Gillard or Howard governments.

Moreover, since the election of the Albanese government, the pay gap has fallen to a historical low of 13.3 per cent.

Experts told Fact Check that changes in the gender pay gap were mostly driven by wider economic conditions, but government policy could also play its part in addressing the issue.

Edited by Ellen McCutchanand David Campbell

Got a fact that needs checking? Tweet us@ABCFactCheckor send us an email

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Is it wrong to wear a mask? ›

Experts agree that wearing face masks can protect people's health and slow the spread of COVID-19. That's because the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through respiratory droplets that get into the air from sneezing, coughing or even speaking.

What are the negative psychological effects of wearing masks? ›

As a result, processes such as facial mimicry, which are crucial for social interaction, are impaired when one is interacting with a masked individual (Kastendieck et al. 2021). Masking affects the perception of some expressions more than others, as certain parts of the face are more important for different emotions.

Why are so many people opposed to wearing masks? ›

The qualitative content analysis of a sample of opposing tweets revealed 6 major categories of concerns or justifications for opposing facial masks: (1) physical discomfort or negative effects (30.6%), (2) lack of effectiveness (27.4%), (3) unnecessary or inappropriate for certain people or under certain circumstances ...

What is the argument for wearing a mask? ›

Monica Gandhi, MD (University of California San Francisco): "Masks can prevent many infections altogether, as was seen in health care workers when we moved to universal masking. We're also saying that masks, which filter out a majority of viral particles, can lead to a less severe infection if you do get one.

How do face masks affect perception of people? ›

Recent studies have found that masks pose a considerable challenge to face perception among adult populations, producing consistent deficits in face recognition abilities and leading to reduced holistic processing (Carragher & Hancock, 2020; Freud et al., 2020, 2022).

Are face masks good for your skin? ›

Both women and men can benefit significantly from using a face mask product. They're not just for beauty: they're the perfect treatment to help you with your skincare concerns. A face mask is commonly used for: Hydrating and moisturizing the skin.

Is wearing a mask causing anxiety? ›

Some people become anxious when wearing a face mask or just thinking about wearing a face mask. This would be what some are calling face mask anxiety. But it is important to remember that the mask is NOT causing the anxiety. The person's perceptions about the mask are what lead the brain to become anxious.

Do masks cause social anxiety? ›

“It creates, not only a physical barrier, but masks create a psychological barrier,” she said. “It feels like it can be a guard or a shield against people who looks, their stares or evaluation." Dr. Albers said many people with social anxiety fear the day when it's appropriate to go out without the mask.

What is the problem of mask face? ›

Skin problems can develop beneath your mask. Common problems include acne breakouts, excessive dryness, and irritated skin. If you find that wearing a face mask is causing a skin problem like a rash, acne, or other irritation, you may be able to treat it yourself.

Why did people refuse to wear masks during the pandemic? ›

Refusal to wear masks is associated with a range of anti-mask attitudes, at the center of which are PR and beliefs that masks are ineffective.

Why don t Americans wear masks? ›

As reflected in the figure below, we find that 40% of Americans who do not wear a mask say this is because it is “their right as an American to not wear a mask.” This modal response was followed by Americans who say they do not wear a mask “because it is uncomfortable” at 24%.

Which countries do not require masks? ›

Countries Without Mask Mandates
  • Scotland – Scotland has kept the mask mandate throughout the pandemic; however, this will end on March 21.
  • Wales – Wales still has a mask mandate in shops, gyms, salons, etc. ...
  • Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland has removed the requirement to wear masks.

What are the pros of wearing masks for COVID? ›

While the viruses that cause these illnesses — flu, RSV and COVID — are different, they all spread in similar ways: by small and large droplets that travel through the air. But high-quality masks, such as an N95 or similar, can help to block these germs that make us sick.

Which of the following best describes a central theme of the text we wear the mask? ›

Which of the following best describes a central theme of the text? Identity comes from what we do and are, not what we look like.

Does wearing a mask boost confidence? ›

New research, published by Cardiff University found that both women and men were perceived as more attractive with a mask than without and provide an boost in confidence. Some theories to this perception are that wearing a mask draws more attention to the eyes of the person wearing a mask.

Does mask wearing have psychological effects on children? ›

Some parents and teachers have cited concerns that masks harm kids by impairing their ability to breathe, slowing their social and emotional development, and causing them anxiety.

What effect does wearing a face mask have on vocal self perception during a pandemic? ›

Results: Face masks increased the perception of vocal effort, difficulty in speech intelligibility, auditory feedback, and difficulty in coordinating speech and breathing, irrespective of usage.

Do dermatologists recommend face masks? ›

Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in NYC, explains. "Avoid overworking your skin by constantly using masks," Dr. Engelman says. "My general guideline is using a mask once a week and upping the application to twice a week if you have certain skin concerns you want to target."

Do face masks help wrinkles? ›

Conclusion. Wearing a mask for extended periods increases skin wrinkles and pores and using a moisturizer when wearing the mask helps to reduce this problem.

Is it OK to mask everyday? ›

Using a sheet mask every day can help boost your skin's hydration levels, as leaving the mask on the face for a certain period helps push the ingredients into the skin. By using a mask daily, you can enjoy the same result as using a super-powered moisturizer every day.

What is the best argument for not wearing a mask? ›

Claim: Wearing masks can cause other health risks

"(4) Wearing a face mask makes the exhaled air go into the eyes. This generates an uncomfortable feeling and an impulse to touch your eyes. If your hands are contaminated, you are infecting yourself. (5) Face masks make breathing more difficult.

What's the best breathable mask? ›

Shop our top breathable face masks below.
  1. EnerPlex Premium Face Mask. Amazon. ...
  2. VTER Cotton Breathing Mask. Amazon. ...
  3. Onzie Mindful Mask. Onzie. ...
  4. NxtStop. Amazon. ...
  5. StringKing 3-Layer Face Mask. String King. ...
  6. Sanctuary Summer Lightweight PPE Masks. Sanctuary. ...
  7. Reebok Face Covers. Reebok. ...
  8. Perry Ellis Woven Face Mask.
Aug 23, 2022

What is the fear of not wearing a mask called? ›

Masklophobia (sometimes referred to as maskaphobia) is a specific phobia used to classify a general and in some cases an irrational fear of masks, people in costumed clothing and mascots which is common among toddlers and young children. The common cause for masklophobia is not known.

Do masks cause speech problems? ›

While this is a natural concern, there is no known evidence that use of face masks interferes with speech and language development or social communication.

Should I mask my mental illness? ›

But sometimes masking is necessary to keep you safe or help you maintain relationships. It can protect you from people who don't understand your symptoms and will respond negatively to them. It can help you hold down a job, navigate social situations, and connect with other people.

Why is it called Maskfishing? ›

The term is a play on “catfishing,” the slang for misrepresenting one's identity online.

Why do surgeons wear masks? ›

The facemask has been used in surgical settings for over a hundred years;2 first described in 1897, at its inception, it consisted merely of a single layer of gauze to cover the mouth,3 and its primary function was to protect the patient from contamination and surgical site infection.

When can we stop wearing masks in Oregon? ›

OHA lifted mask requirements in schools and in indoor public spaces on March 12, 2022. People may continue to wear masks in public settings and in workplaces.

Do face masks cause melasma? ›

However, it turns out that wearing an actual mask can also cause melasma. Melasma must be “triggered” and a mask traps heat against the skin's surface, which can cause a temperature-induced melasma. Melasma is often a chronic condition, but there are methods to reduce its appearance.

Are other countries still wearing masks? ›

Out of the 150+ countries that have dropped all entry restrictions, the majority of these countries no longer have any mask mandates in place and very few people continue to wear masks. However, in certain countries, especially in Latin America and Asia, mask mandates and voluntary mask-wearing persist.

Why did people wear masks on Halloween? ›

On Halloween, when it is believed that ghosts come back to the earthly world, people feared they would encounter ghosts when leaving home. To avoid being recognized by ghosts, people wore masks outside their homes, hoping they would be mistaken for fellow spirits!

When was the face mask invented? ›

Modern surgical masks began to be used in the 1960s. Their adoption caused cloth facemasks, which had been used since the late 19th century, to completely fall out of use in the developed world. However, cloth masks and surgical masks both continued to be used in developing countries.

Why are people wearing masks in the World Cup? ›

The masks are made from materials like polycarbonate and protect athletes who have sustained facial injuries, ensuring they can play on without risking further damage.

Do people wear masks in Europe? ›

However, many European countries still have mask mandates in place: People across Greece will still be wearing them in indoor, public spaces until June and Italy still requires the same.

Does France still have a mask mandate? ›

Do I need to wear a face mask in France? Wearing face masks is required in some cases.

Are masks still required in Europe? ›

At present, the majority of EU and EEA countries have abolished their preventive measures, such as testing requirements or the requirement to wear a face mask. The latter requirement has also been removed in several EU airlines; however, rules differ among European countries, reports.

Should you still wear COVID masks? ›

You probably don't need to wear a mask, but you may continue to do so if it makes you feel more comfortable. Areas with medium transmission. If you have a higher chance of getting severe COVID-19, wear a mask in indoor public spaces.

Why do we need face shields? ›

Face shields are used to protect your eyes, nose, mouth and face from flying objects and liquids. They are not a good substitute for face masks because they do not offer the same protection against COVID-19.

What face masks are recommended for COVID protection? ›

N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from particles or from liquid contaminating the face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also regulates N95 respirators.

What is the argument of why we should wear masks? ›

Wearing a mask is an easy way to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the infection, but it's not a panacea—people also need to observe social distancing and practice good hand hygiene.

What is the moral of the story the mask? ›

It's a morality tale, the message is to do the right thing and help others – a positive message for kids.

What is the rhetorical question in We Wear the Mask? ›

In this case, the speaker asks a rhetorical question to reiterate their larger point about the importance of concealing their real feelings: “Why should the world be over-wise / In counting all our tears and sighs?” (lines 6–7).

Can a mask help with allergies? ›

Masks may stop allergens in the air from getting into your nose, throat, and lungs. If allergens like pollen, mold, and animal dander cause you to have allergy and asthma symptoms, you may get some relief from wearing a face mask.

Can a 13 year old use face mask? ›

Children aged 12 and over should wear a mask in the same way that adults do.

How long should you wear a face mask skincare? ›

Most masks, except those labeled as overnight, should be worn for no more than 20 minutes at a time. If you wear them longer, they'll begin to dry out and dry out your skin.

How do you wear a 3D mask? ›

3D mask wear demonstration

Hold the mask with the stiff bendable strip on top,and the side which has "上" facing outwards. Pinch the nose trip to confirm to the shape of your nose. Pull the bottom of the mask ,cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.

Are masks effective against respiratory? ›

Those who were randomly selected to wear a mask had lower levels of respiratory shedding for influenza, rhinovirus—which causes the common cold—and non-SARS coronaviruses, than those with no mask.

Do face masks reduce inflammation? ›

Acne or inflammation

While face masks aren't a long-term remedy for acne, they can help calm inflamed skin and prevent breakouts.

Does wearing a mask prevent stomach bug? ›

However, she said wearing face mask will not prevent you from getting viral gastroenteritis. “Viral gastroenteritis is not respiratory virus,” she said. “It's not going to be as effective in spreading that. The primary means to prevent the spread is going to be proper hand hygiene.”

Why you should wear a mask other than COVID? ›

Evidence shows that face masks help protect against viruses other than COVID-19, particularly influenza A and B, the viruses responsible for most cases of the flu. So if you want extra protection from the flu, RSV and other respiratory illness, it's a good idea to go ahead and put on a face mask.

What is the best homemade face mask? ›

Combine 1 teaspoon of honey + 2 teaspoons of milk + 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder into a bowl and mix (the milk and honey serve as the base, and Dr. Robinson shares that you'll want to add "just enough cocoa powder to give it a thick enough consistency to spread on your face") Leave the mask on for 15 minutes.

Is it safe to wear mask while walking? ›

Sensations of difficulty breathing and shortness of breath were more common while walking with masks. Conclusion: While important to prevent viral spread, wearing facemasks during brisk 5-minute walks might be associated with mild hypercarbia and desaturation.

Can I use the same face mask twice? ›

Yes, reusing a mask is safe. Masks work the same way on any variant—by trapping virus-containing particles in their layers. Also, the coronavirus is transmitted mainly through respiration; you're less likely to catch it by touching an infected surface.

Should you wash your face after wearing a mask? ›

Using a soft and slightly warmed cloth to gently rinse away excess product should be sufficient. Be careful not to scrub too hard or use excessively hot water, as this can dry your skin. Cleansing your face after a face mask is a no-no.

How many times can you reuse sheet masks? ›

Can I reuse a sheet mask? Sheet masks are for one time use only.

How do you wear a CVS mask? ›

Choose a mask with two or more layers that completely covers your mouth and nose and fits snugly against the sides of your face, leaving no gaps. Do not wear a mask that is too loose on the sides. Do not pull the mask low on your nose, below your nose, or below your mouth or chin.


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