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).

CheckMate: Does a new study really show that masks are detrimental to human health? (2)

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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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.

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.

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.

Can wear mask cause 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.

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).

Should you wear a mask on a plane? ›

It's a prime location for viral transmission. “If you wear a mask, that is at least one protection you can keep constant, as well as other easy mitigations, like keeping up to date with Covid vaccines, wiping down your seat and tray area, and keeping your hands clean,” says Wallace.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Is it safe to stop wearing a mask? ›

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

How do I overcome mask anxiety? ›

To desensitize yourself to the sensation of the mask on your face, Dr. Barnett suggests wearing one at home so when you have to put a mask on in public, it's no big deal after a while. If necessary, start with small stretches of time and then try to tolerate your mask for longer periods.

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.

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.

What does a radiation mask do? ›

What is a radiotherapy mask? For most types of radiotherapy to your brain, head or neck area, you wear a radiotherapy mask during each treatment. This is sometimes also called a mould, head shell or cast. The mask is made to hold your head and neck still and in exactly the right position.

What are the odds of catching Covid on a plane? ›

Boeing's analysis determined the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is extremely low. There's a 1 in 1.7 million chance of passengers contracting COVID-19 on a flight. That's according to new Boeing research, which analyzed the transmission risk for people throughout the air travel journey.

Should I wear compression socks on a plane? ›

Compression socks prevent swelling

Being able to stand up and walk around or stretching is limited on a plane; therefore, promoting blood circulation is necessary. “Compression socks help to increase circulation, thus preventing swelling in your lower legs and feet,” he explains.

What is the difference between KN95 and N95 masks? ›

The difference between the two types of masks is the certi cation. N95 is the United States (U.S.) standard and the KN95 is the China standard. Only N95 masks are approved for healthcare use in the U.S. KN95 masks have many of the same protective properties.

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 you wash your face after a face mask? ›

Should I wash my face after a face mask? If you are using a DIY, cream or peel-off mask then you need to wash any excess product off with cold water, however, if you'll be using a sheet mask, then there's no need to rinse it off.

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.

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.

Do people still wear masks in Vietnam? ›

Do I need to wear a face mask in Vietnam? Wearing face masks in Vietnam is required in some public spaces.

Why do Koreans still wear masks? ›

Masks protect against the region's air pollution.

The dangers of air pollution are sharply felt in South Korea, where masks are a common line of defense on days when fine dust particles form a gray haze in the sky.

What are masks used for in different cultures? ›

Many masks are primarily associated with ceremonies that have religious and social significance or are concerned with funerary customs, fertility rites, or the curing of sickness. Other masks are used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in reenactments of mythological events.

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).

What is the tone for We Wear the Mask? ›

We wear the mask! The attitude/tone of the poem is frustration and sadness. The poem sounds calm but means regret when reading the poem. A example in this poem would be "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile."

What is the meaning of human guile? ›

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, Line 3 tells us that the people wearing these masks owe it all to "human guile." Fancy word check: "guile" simply means a sort of deceitfulness, not being real.

What are the effects of face masks on person perception? ›

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).

What does masking mean mental health? ›

Masking describes the act of hiding or suppressing symptoms of a mental health condition. People usually mask in situations and environments where they are expected to act in a socially normative way — like at school or work, or when meeting new people.

What is the effect of face masks on facial emotion recognition? ›

In all experiments, facial emotion recognition (FER) was about 20% worse for masked faces than for unmasked ones (68% correct vs. 88%). The impairment was largest for disgust, followed by fear, surprise, sadness, and happiness.

Is masking a result of trauma? ›

Masked trauma are those traumatic events, histories, and symptoms which are hidden, i.e. not clearly evident to clients, providers/caregivers, and/or significant others.

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 impact do face masks have on the emotional reading abilities of children? ›

Kids showed extreme problems in reading the emotion disgust, strong effects on fear and sadness, and only mild effects on happiness, but also even better performances for emotional states anger and neutral when faces were masked.

What is masking trauma? ›

The need to mask your autism may be caused by the trauma you have experienced. Ultimately, masking or camouflage means hiding who you are in order to fit in. When you experience trauma and/or rejection for being who you truly are, it's common to think you need to hide these traits to survive.

Is masking a form of autism? ›

Autism masking, also known as Autism camouflaging, follows the same lines….. Masking is a word used to describe something seen in many children with ASD – when they learn, practice, and perform certain behaviours and suppress others in order to be more like the people around them.

What is masking disorder? ›

Masking, sometimes referred to as “camouflaging,” occurs when someone attempts to hide their mental health symptoms in an effort to blend in with people around them. They may copy other people's demeanor or actions or engage in compensatory behaviors.

Is masking emotions healthy? ›

The Impact of Mental Health Masking

Increased stress, depression, and anxiety are some of the potential effects of masking. The loss of your sense of identity is another. Overall, however, long-term masking may cause autistic people the most harm, research shows.

Why do masks help my social anxiety? ›

According to Moscovitch, this is known as a “safety behaviour,” meaning that mask-wearing has become a coping strategy during moments of social anxiety, creating distance between the mask wearer and the people they are interacting with.

How can you tell if someone is masking? ›

Signs you or someone you support may be masking include:
  1. Mirroring others' facial expressions or social behaviors.
  2. Rehearsing or preparing scripted responses to comments.
  3. Imitating gestures such as handshakes or initiating eye contact.
  4. Noticeable difficulty with disguising autistic traits in unfamiliar environments.
Apr 19, 2022

Is autism caused by trauma? ›

All of this hints at a complex and poorly understood relationship between autism and PTSD. While autism is never caused by trauma, there may be something about living with autism that is inherently traumatic.

Can masking cause meltdowns? ›

Recognise and make allowances for the exhaustion and anxiety that comes from long periods of time masking in order to fit in. When the social demands of school become too much, be aware that what appear to be small things can cause a shutdown or a meltdown and that this will often only be expressed at home.


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