If you want to ascertain the science behind a given policy, look at the literature on the issue before it became political and a tool for social control. Thus, if one were to do that regarding the efficacy of masks, the side effects of long-term wearing, and the advice on children wearing them, he’d discover that the research was all on one side … until it became political.
One common public health challenge that might lead people to cover their faces is annual wildfire season in affected areas. For those who don’t live near forests, particularly out west, this might sound like a foreign concept, but for millions of Americans, dealing with the contaminated air from wildfires is a common occurrence. What’s also particularly helpful about researching forest fires is that the issue has not been politicized, at least not yet. So, what have governmental agencies said about covering one’s face in areas saturated with smoke from seasonal wildfires?
The California Department of Public Health has a section on mask wearing in its Q&A page for protecting against smoke inhalation from wildfires. In response to the question, “Should I wear a mask during a wildfire, even if it's not really smoky where I am?” the California government could not be any clearer:
“Surgical masks, dust masks, bandanas or other face coverings do not offer protection from particle pollution. Inexpensive paper "comfort" or "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles and do not provide enough protection for your lungs.”
In other words, everyone understood until recently that masks are for visible contamination or perhaps larger bacteria, but not for microscopic particles, such as smoke particles or viruses. At least 90% of smoke particles are less than 1 micron (1,000 nanometers), which is 1/100th the size of the width of a human hair.
SARS-CoV-2 particles are even smaller, between 60-140 nanometers, which is approximately 1/10th the size of the smoke particles for which masks don’t help. There is no equivocation in this statement – the same way the CDC, as late as May 2020, was certain that masks don’t help against virus particles
To the contrary, the California Department of Health, which now obsesses about the use of masks, warned about the inherent harm in wearing masks, especially outdoors:
“Mask use may give the wearer a false sense of security, which might encourage too much physical activity and time spent outdoors. Also, wearing a mask may actually be harmful to some people with heart or lung disease because it can make the lungs work harder to breathe.”
How come nobody is raising any concern about universal masking given the obvious observation that covering one’s face makes the lungs work harder?
Also, their point about a false sense of security during wildfires applies to the virus as well. While the media and politicians are dramatically overstating the risk of the virus, it certainly is potentially deadly for those who are immunocompromised. I have seen a lot of people I know go indoors with many people around thinking that a mask will protect them. This is one area where the mask cult is actually being too lenient by creating a mystical placebo out of masks.
The CA Department of Health does note that NIOSH N95 or P100 masks, “when worn correctly, have been shown to filter particles and improve the quality of the air being inhaled.” In other words, a form-fitted N95 can possibly make a dent in the amount of inhalation of contaminated micro particles (although virus particles are 10 times smaller). However, they state clearly that “Children should not wear these masks – they do not fit properly and can impede breathing.”
But if this is a problem for children, it should be a problem for adults too. As the Sacramento County Department of Health Services states, “N95 respirator can make it more difficult for the wearer to breathe due to carbon dioxide buildup, which reduces the intake of oxygen, increased breathing rates, and heart rates.”
In the EPA’s guidance on protecting against smoke inhalation from wildfires, they advise people to stay home, but if they go out, they recommend “using a tightfitting N95 or P100 respirator.” There is no mention of the absurdity of wearing another type of mask altogether.
The EPA also warns about the side effects. They observe that “wearing a respirator can make it harder to breathe and that “wearing a respirator, especially if it’s hot or you are physically active, can increase the risk of heat-related illness.” And, of course, they warn against children wearing them.
Again, if this is the known side effect of N95s, one has to wonder if there is at least some harm with oxygen loss with surgical masks when worn for entire school days – putting aside the fact that they do not filter out virus particles. Who is to say people will not suffer the worst of both worlds – some degree of carbon dioxide poisoning while failing to filter out the virus as a jail cell would fail to contain a fly? This is especially true when these masks are worn all day in excessive heat.
What is self-evident from reading the government literature on masks before the issue became political is that they were extremely empathic and consistent about the fact that random masks do not filter out microbiology.
“Surgical masks and one-strap dust masks will not protect your lungs,” wrote the EPA with regards to ash disposal workers. “They are not designed to seal tightly to the face.”
The only thing that was thought to help was an N95, but it was clear it had to be form-fitting, one had to be clean shaven while wearing it, and they were designed to be worn only for short periods of time because of the side effects.
The Montana Department of Health was just as emphatic about the inability of surgical masks to filter out microbiology and the risk of side effects with more form-fitted ones:
Surgical masks or dust masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” mask, properly worn, will offer some protection. If you decide to keep a mask on hand, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Filtering face-piece respirators and masks can make the work of breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing rates and heart rates. They can also contribute to heat stress. Because of this, respirator use by those with heart and respiratory diseases should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. A wet towel or bandana is not recommended either. While they may stop large particles, fine ones can still get into the lungs.
We already see how masks don’t work even in the countries and settings with 100% compliance. It makes sense because a 2019 study of 2,862 randomized participants published in JAMA found that even N95 masks don’t work against influenza, which is much smaller than smoke particles. "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," concluded the study by Radonovich, L.J. et al. in 2019.
Now it will be interesting to watch the side effects. Until then, we will be told to shut up and make our lungs work harder contrary to unrefuted research by our government before this became a political tool of social control.