Could there be anything more gross than the masks your kids are wearing?

Because I'm a bit OCD, I realized in March 2020 that Americans were doing masks wrong.  People were constantly taking the same mask off and then putting it on again after it had spent time in pockets, purses, car seats, and backpacks, or just been dangling under their chins.  In my OCD imagination, I could see the cross-contaminants grow and fester.  This is especially true for healthy, normal children who are grubby disease vectors.

I was right.  Parents in Florida sent five kids' masks and one adult mask to a lab at the University of Florida.  The results were scary and disgusting, for the masks had plenty of dangerous pathogens.  The only thing missing from the masks was COVID.

The parents were concerned about potential contaminants on the mask, which is why they contacted the University of Florida's Mass Spectrometry Research and Education Center for analysis.  Each mask sent to the lab had been either new or freshly laundered at the start of the day.  Then the kids and the adult wore them for five to eight hours.  The kids, aged 6 through 11, wore their masks for in-person schooling.  In addition, for each mask, the parents sent samples from a t-shirt that one of the children had been wearing.  Three of the masks were surgical masks, two were cotton, and one was a poly gaiter.

According to Rational Ground, which reported this story, the analysis showed 11 dangerous pathogens on the masks:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia)
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (tuberculosis)
  • Neisseria meningitidis (meningitis, sepsis)
  • Acanthamoeba polyphaga (keratitis and granulomatous amebic encephalitis)
  • Acinetobacter baumanni (pneumonia, blood stream infections, meningitis, UTIs—resistant to antibiotics)
  • Escherichia coli (food poisoning)
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme disease)
  • Corynebacterium diphtheriae (diphtheria)
  • Legionella pneumophila (Legionnaires' disease)
  • Staphylococcus pyogenes serotype M3 (severe infections—high morbidity rates)
  • Staphylococcus aureus (meningitis, sepsis)

Half of the masks were contaminated with one or more strains of pneumonia-causing bacteria. One-third were contaminated with one or more strains of meningitis-causing bacteria. One-third were contaminated with dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens. In addition, less dangerous pathogens were identified, including pathogens that can cause fever, ulcers, acne, yeast infections, strep throat, periodontal disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more.

Just about the only thing that didn't show up on the masks was COVID, even though the test was sensitive enough to have revealed COVID had it existed.

The actual lab reports are here.  The following is the list of the pathogens found on just one of the masks:

It doesn't take a genius, or even a neurotic person, to figure out the stupidity of sticking masks on children's faces for hours a day, without regard for cross-contamination or the amount of time worn.  It actually speaks well for the immune systems of American children that we didn't have massive outbreaks of a medieval spectrum of dangerous diseases.

If America survives, we will look back on this interval and be as unable to comprehend what happened as we are when we struggle to understand the mindset of people living hundreds or even thousands of years ago.  This was a year of collective madness unlike anything seen before in American history.

Image: Child in a mask by  CC-BY-SA.

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