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No Evidence That Face Masks Contain Harmful Chemicals

Maxim Sorokopud Maxim Sorokopud
28th April 2021
No Evidence That Face Masks Contain Harmful Chemicals
The claim is based on speculation (Getty Images).

The Claim

Leading German scientists have discovered that certain face masks could lead to the inhalation of harmful chemicals and microplastics.

Emerging story

OIn April 1st, 2021, the fabrics publication Ecotextile News claimed to have an exclusive story about the danger of face masks. The article claimed that leading German scientists had identified mask-wearing as a risk to human health. Specifically, the publication claimed to have interviewed Professor Michael Braungart, the director of the Hamburg Environmental Institute, and Dr. Dieter Sedlak, the managing director and co-founder of Modern Testing Services, Augsburg. 

The article claims that Professor Braungart has found that wearers of certain face masks, specifically textile and nonwoven face masks, risk breathing in carcinogens, allergens and synthetic microfibers. It also claims that Dr. Dieter Sedlak has “found elevated concentrations of hazardous fluorocarbons, formaldehyde and other potentially carcinogenic substances on surgical face masks.” 

A range of conspiracy theory websites and unreliable news sites then repeated these claims. The claims also spread via social media: 

A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar’s investigation found the Ecotextile News story and its follow up reports to be suspicious. 

Ecotextile News’s parent company, MCL News & Media, claims to follow journalistic integrity, and there appear to be no sources that highlight either Ecotextile News or MCL News & Media as unreliable. But the claims about masks in the article are not backed up by any peer reviewed studies or other verifiable information. 

Instead, the article claims that the two German scientists have conducted, “initial analytical tests,” “preliminary tests” and “studies.” These studies cannot be relied upon until they are actually published instead of just discussed. 

Additionally, the Ecotextile News does not state for certain that the users of certain face masks are inhaling toxic chemicals or microplastics. Instead, the article states that there could be a risk of inhalation and that mask wearers are running the risk of breathing in carcinogens, which is not the same as stating for a fact that mask wearers are breathing in these substances. Also, the source article states that the risk may come from wearing the masks for “long periods of time,” without specifying or even estimating what a long period of time could be. 

It may be that the two German scientists that Ecotextile News claims to have spoken to have discovered a potential health hazard due to wearing textile and nonwoven surgical masks for extended periods of time. But this cannot be considered a fact until their findings are published in a reliable source. 

Additionally, it is worth highlighting the fact that the risk of wearing a textile or non woven face mask may be significantly smaller than the risk of contracting coronavirus. After all, a range of foods and drinks, are also considered carcinogenic, yet people continue to consume them.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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