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Trust Index: Face masks do NOT cause wearer to inhale own ‘toxins’

Doctors: Rumor that circulated on social media has no basis in science

Medical experts and the News4Jax Trust Index team debunked a warning against wearing face masks that claimed the coverings can pose a risk to the wearer’s health.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Medical experts and the News4Jax Trust Index team debunked a warning against wearing face masks that claimed the coverings can pose a risk to the wearer’s health.

The rumor implies that the use of a face mask, which has been recommended by the CDC for months, will cause the person wearing it to inhale toxins and waste that they exhaled.

“I know my kids are getting sick from wearing muzzles," a mother said in a Sept. 9 Facebook post. "Yes, they are always washed!”

This screenshot shows a concerned mother claiming that her children are becoming ill due to the use of face masks. News4Jax was granted permission to share the post, but the user's name and image were redacted from the screenshot on Set. 12, 2020. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The author of the Facebook post shown in the above image granted News4Jax permission to share it, but this post was far from the only one attempting to propagate the same theory.

The Trust Index team looked into the claim and found it was FALSE.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

“There is no truth to that,” Immunologist Dr. Sunil Joshi said. “There’s no scientific evidence that that is indeed the case. And so, again, I would consider that to be a major myth. The thought that as you’re breathing out, your breathing back in the same toxins is, is pretty much non-scientific and to some extent bogus.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Kantor said someone’s breath does not pose a danger to the body from which is was exhaled.

“There is no established mechanistic way in which you can make any sense where what somebody is inhaling is somehow affecting them when they exhale it,” Kantor said. “Certainly, the idea that somehow wearing a mask is causing some kind of intensification of toxins, doesn’t even hold water physiologically.”

While a person’s recycled breath will not pose a health risk, experts say a mask can become unsanitary after frequent, repeated and prolonged use without being cleaned.

“If you’re wearing the same mask every single day, for weeks, if not months at a time and never washing it, then, of course, there’s a chance that you’re going to have bacteria, viruses, fungus, a lot of different things grow on it, for the same reason that you don’t wear the same t-shirt every single day,” said Joshi.

Doctors do advise keeping your mask clean in order to avoid potential skin irritation and acne breakouts. Still, experts say the claim that masks pose a danger to the wearer is not true.

“With the exception of some people maybe getting a little bit of extra acne, a mask is not going to give you any actual medical problems," Kantor said. "It’s not going to increase your risk of anything. It’s just going to help you protect yourself, your family and your community.”

Both Joshi and Kantor said medical guidance and advice should be drawn solely from reliable, verifiable sources.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.