Dear Editor:

The Cochrane Library is an independent research organization that has been reviewing the use of physical interventions to reduce respiratory illnesses (such as covid) since 2010.  Their reviews are regarded as the gold standard in evidence-based health care.

Their 2020 review was recently updated by including 11 new randomized controlled trials. Adding these 11 new studies brought the total number of studies analyzed to 78. Eighteen of these studies test whether wearing masks reduces infection.

A meta-analysis of these 18 studies shows that when the general population wears masks, there is no statistically significant evidence of reduced infection. 

Looking only at cases where infection was verified by laboratory tests, the data again fail to show any statistically significant reduction in infection from wearing a mask. 

There was no difference between the effects of wearing normal masks and N95/P2 respirators.

After I first submitted this letter to you, Laura, you directed my attention to three opposing items: (1) using Google you found studies supporting the use of masks, (2) you found reason to believe that the 78 studies individually had many flaws, and (3) the Editor-in-Chief of the Cochrane Library—nearly two months after the publication of the research—now interprets the study to mean “we don’t know if masking has any effect.”

Taking these three in order:

  1. The meta-analysis cited above did not claim that all 18 studies individually showed no positive masking effect—only that taking all 18 studies together provides no support for a positive masking effect—and obviously it should if there actually were a positive effect.
  2. No one has claimed that each of the 78 individual studies was entirely flawless. The meta-analysis shows the 18 masking studies do not support the existence of a positive masking effect. It is doubtful we will ever have 78, or even 18, flawless studies to analyze.
  3. We should not take the interpretation of the Editor-in-Chief (of the Cochrane Library) as unassailable truth. She has provided her interpretation of the evidence. There are countless cases in which seemingly authoritative persons have made completely incorrect statements. In addition, different seemingly authoritative persons have made conflicting statements on a wide variety of subjects. This is an object lesson for us members of the public to do our own research and draw our own conclusions. As we do so, we need to be aware that it is not enough to look at the abstract and conclusions of a research study, as there are instances in which they are inconsistent with the data in the study. So, in this Cochrane Library study, if we look at the study itself (see Summary of findings 1. In the study), we find data summarized for nine masking studies with a total of more than 250,000 subjects which reveal (as I detailed above) no statistically significant reduction in infection due to masking. Please look at the study for yourself if you wish (Google Cochrane Library, click browse by topic, click “l”—lungs and airways”. Publications are listed by date with the most recent at the top. You will find “physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses” 30 January 2023).

My personal conclusion: the science shows masking does not reduce infection. 

How did we end up with mask mandates? Our health authorities either failed to look for scientific evidence, or, having learned the scientific evidence did not support masking, decided they would mandate masking anyway. In addition, information such as I have just presented was censored by governments and health authorities. 

Who knows why they adopted mask mandates? Possibly, government wanted to be seen as taking effective action to protect us believing (rightly) that most of us did not know the scientific evidence shows masking does not reduce infection. Many mask wearers likely did feel better, believing the mask was a protective barrier, and not realizing that it wasn’t.

Quite aside from the fact that masks do not reduce infection in my opinion, there is evidence that wearing masks actually may be harmful, for example by reducing blood oxygen levels. Also, the usual type of masks contain things you probably don’t want to inhale, such as titanium dioxide, a suspected carcinogen, and plastic particles.

In fact, on 5 April 2023 a research study published in Frontiers of Public Health found: “Masks interfered with O2 -uptake and CO2-release and compromised respiratory compensation…outcomes independently validate mask-induced exhaustion-syndrome (MIES) and down-stream physio-metabolic disfunctions.”

Finally, discarded masks are hazardous waste. A low estimate of the number of masks discarded in 2020 is 2.4 billion. Masks readily disintegrate in water releasing both micro and nanoplastic particles. The nanoparticles include heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and arsenic. Nanoparticles can penetrate cell walls and damage DNA.

Now you know. If future mask mandates are proposed, you have evidence to strongly oppose them—in the interests of your own health and the health of our environment.

Roger Beck 

Tete Jaune, BC

P.S. No one reading my letter should assume it was published because the Goat or its Editor agrees with me.

Editor’s Note

The following is from the Cochrane Library’s Website:

“The Cochrane Review ‘Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses’ was published in January 2023 and has been widely misinterpreted.

Karla Soares-Weiser, Editor-in-Chief of the Cochrane Library, has responded on behalf of Cochrane:

‘Many commentators have claimed that a recently-updated Cochrane Review shows that ‘masks don’t work’, which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation.

It would be accurate to say that the review examined whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses, and that the results were inconclusive. Given the limitations in the primary evidence, the review is not able to address the question of whether mask-wearing itself reduces people’s risk of contracting or spreading respiratory viruses.

The review authors are clear on the limitations in the abstract: ‘The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.’ Adherence in this context refers to the number of people who actually wore the provided masks when encouraged to do so as part of the intervention. For example, in the most heavily-weighted trial of interventions to promote community mask wearing, 42.3% of people in the intervention arm wore masks compared to 13.3% of those in the control arm.

The original Plain Language Summary for this review stated that ‘We are uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses based on the studies we assessed.’ This wording was open to misinterpretation, for which we apologize. While scientific evidence is never immune to misinterpretation, we take responsibility for not making the wording clearer from the outset. We are engaging with the review authors with the aim of updating the Plain Language Summary and abstract to make clear that the review looked at whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses.’”