Face masks UK: Are face masks risky? Common myth debunked

Face masks have become one of the defining images of the coronavirus pandemic, but also one of the most controversial. Their efficacy has been the subject of debate since they came into wide usage, with people unsure as to whether they can prevent COVID-19. However, recent controversy has intensified, as people claim they could even pose a risk to wearers.

Are face masks risky?

People have long touted the usefulness of face masks for avoiding danger, but they claim they may actually cause it is a new one.

Some figures have strapped themselves to the claim they could cause all manner of damage to those who wear them continuously.

The rumours revolve around one in particular – breathing carbon dioxide.


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One infamous video of an angry woman speaking to officials in Orange County, California, saw her claim masks would make her breathe in the byproduct.

The breathing cycle sees people pull oxygen out of the air and into their lungs, while they expel carbon dioxide.

In significant concentrations, carbon dioxide can cause health problems, such as sweating, dizziness and even asphyxia.

Infectious disease specialists have repeatedly rubbished this claim, however, saying they don’t fit tight enough to impede airflow or trap carbon dioxide.

William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre said professionals would notice if they posed a risk.

He said: “We don’t have ERs full of people who wore a mask and became sick because they were wearing a mask.”

While not dangerous in any way, this doesn’t mean they’re comfortable for people to wear, and other professionals believe they have become an outspoken issue due to their unwieldy nature.

Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security said masks cause people to “question everything”.

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He said: “It’s cumbersome to have a mask on, and that’s what people notice.

“I think that people are trying to find reasons not to wear masks and questioning everything.”

The discomfort has also led the Government to conclude some groups shouldn’t wear the masks.

Their reasoning incorporates those who may find it the most uncomfortable, or with preexisting breathing problems.

Officials have said the following three groups shouldn’t wear the masks:

  • Children under two
  • Primary aged children who cannot use them without assistance
  • Those who may have problems breathing while wearing a face-covering

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