In reviewing the scientific data surrounding respiratory flu-like illnesses, it is clear that masks don’t work. At very least, there are significant reasons to question the common narrative that (indisputably!) masks and respirators are beneficial. As mask hysteria takes hold and public mask-wearing policies are thoughtlessly implemented, it is important to catalog and combat the misinformation. In fact, to my knowledge, there are zero studies which show a benefit to a broad public mask-wearing policy, especially considering the fact that that there is no proof that asymptomatic individuals infect others. There is, however, evidence that asymptomatic individuals do not infect other individuals. In fact, the WHO just admitted asymptomatic transmission is “very rare.”1 But I digress…
There have been numerous and extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, and meta-analysis reviews, which show that masks and respirators do not prevent respiratory illnesses believed to be transmitted by droplets and/or aerosol particles. Most likely, you’ve never seen or even heard of these studies. But please don’t just take my word for it: scroll down the page and you can read all studies yourself. I have extracted and highlighted some of the most relevant portions below.
The studies linked below serve help to illustrate the degree to which governments, the mainstream media, and institutional propagandists can decide to operate in a science vacuum, select only incomplete science, and deliberately mislead the public. To be fair, there are studies which do purport to show the efficacy of masks (in controlled settings) although they are incomplete and/or do not address “real-world” scenarios, such as the proper fit of masks and filtering of aerosols. I will try and address some of those in the near future.
TL;DR (Short Version)
There are numerous studies which show masks do not prevent or reduce illness. The most restrictive mask or respirator2 is the N95, with pore sizes between 300-500 nm in diameter. Most viruses, including COVID-19, are <100 nm in size. While a mask helps control large droplets – such a sneeze – they do nothing against small aerosols. And even a properly fitted N95 respirator3 is not sufficient to protect you against aerosols.
This page is intended to be a reference for all relevant studies showing masks do not provide benefits when dealing with flu-like illnesses. It will be updated as I continue to do more research. Scroll down for the studies.
Note: all formatting below is mine
Relevant Mask Studies
Study 1: “Unmasking the surgeons: the evidence base behind the use of facemasks in surgery.”
Zhou Cd, Sivathondan P, Handa A. (2015) "Unmasking the surgeons: the evidence base behind the use of facemasks in surgery," JR Soc Med 2015; 108(6):223-228. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4480558/
Excerpt/Summary: “Examination of the literature revealed much of the published work on the matter to be quite dated and often studies had poorly elucidated methodologies. As a result, we recommend caution in extrapolating their findings to contemporary surgical practice. However, overall there is a lack of substantial evidence to support claims that facemasks protect either patient or surgeon from infectious contamination. More rigorous contemporary research is needed to make a definitive comment on the effectiveness of surgical facemasks.”
Study 2: “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: A randomized controlled trial.”
Jacobs, J. L. et al. (2009) “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: A randomized controlled trial,” American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 37, Issue 5, 417 – 419. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216002
Excerpt/Summary: N95-masked health-care workers (HCW) were significantly more likely to experience headaches. Face mask use in HCW was not demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.
Study 3: “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review.”
Cowling, B. et al. (2010) “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review,” Epidemiology and Infection, 138(4), 449-456. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection/article/face-masks-to-prevent-transmission-of-influenza-virus-a-systematic- review/64D368496EBDE0AFCC6639CCC9D8BC05
Excerpt/Summary: None of the studies reviewed showed a benefit from wearing a mask, in either HCW or community members in households (H).
Study 4: “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence”
bin-Reza et al. (2012) “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence,” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 6(4), 257–267. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1750-2659.2011.00307.x
Excerpt/Summary: “There were 17 eligible studies. … None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.”
Study 5: “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis”
Smith, J.D. et al. (2016) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” CMAJ Mar 2016 https://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/8/567
Excerpt/Summary: “We identified six clinical studies … . In the meta-analysis of the clinical studies, we found no significant difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks in associated risk of (a) laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, (b) influenza-like illness, or (c) reported work-place absenteeism.”
Study 6: “Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
Offeddu, V. et al. (2017) “Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 11, 1 December 2017, Pages 1934–1942, https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/65/11/1934/4068747
Excerpt/Summary: “Self-reported assessment of clinical outcomes was prone to bias. Evidence of a protective effect of masks or respirators against verified respiratory infection (VRI) was not statistically significant.”
Study 7: “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial”
Radonovich, L.J. et al. (2019) “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” JAMA. 2019; 322(9): 824–833. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2749214
Excerpt/Summary: “Among 2862 randomized participants, 2371 completed the study and accounted for 5180 HCW-seasons. … Among outpatient health care personnel, N95 respirators vs medical masks as worn by participants in this trial resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
Study 8: “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks against influenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis”
Long, Y. et al. (2020) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks against influenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” J Evid Based Med. 2020; 1- 9. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jebm.12381
Excerpt/Summary: “A total of six RCTs involving 9,171 participants were included. There were no statistically significant differences in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza, laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral infections, laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, and influenza-like illness using N95 respirators and surgical masks. Meta-analysis indicated a protective effect of N95 respirators against laboratory-confirmed bacterial colonization (RR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.43-0.78). The use of N95 respirators compared with surgical masks is not associated with a lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
Study 9: “Aerosol penetration and leakage characteristics of masks used in the health care industry”
Weber A, Willeke K, Marchioni R, et al. (1993) "Aerosol penetration and leakage characteristics of masks used in the health care industry," Am J Infect Control. 1993;21:167-173. Abstract
Excerpt/Summary: “We conclude that the protection provided by surgical masks may be insufficient in environments containing potentially hazardous submicrometer-sized aerosols.“
Study 10 – “Masks for Prevention of Respiratory Virus Infections, Including SARS-CoV-2, in Health Care and Community Settings: A Living Rapid Review”
Chou R, Dana T, et al. (2020) "Masks for Prevention of Respiratory Virus Infections, Including SARS-CoV-2, in Health Care and Community Settings: A Living Rapid Review," 2020 M20-3213. Abstract
Excerpt/Summary: “Evidence on mask effectiveness for respiratory infection prevention is stronger in health care than community settings. N95 respirators might reduce SARS-CoV-1 risk versus surgical masks in health care settings, but applicability to SARS-CoV-2 is uncertain.“
Study 11 – “Do N95 respirators provide 95% protection level against airborne viruses, and how adequate are surgical masks?”
Balazy et al. (2006) “Do N95 respirators provide 95% protection level against airborne viruses, and how adequate are surgical masks?”, American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 34, Issue 2, March 2006, Pages 51-57. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2005.08.018 http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.488.4644&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Excerpt/Summary: “The N95 filtering face piece respirators may not provide the expected protection level against small virions. Some surgical masks may let a significant fraction of airborne viruses penetrate through their filters, providing very low protection against aerosolized infectious agents in the size range of 10 to 80 nm. It should be noted that the surgical masks are primarily designed to protect the environment from the wearer, whereas the respirators are supposed to protect the wearer from the environment.“
Study 12 – “N-95 Face Mask for Prevention of Bird Flu Virus: An Appraisal of Nanostructure and Implication for Infectious Control”
N-95 Face Mask for Prevention of Bird Flu Virus: An Appraisal of Nanostructure and Implication for Infectious Control https://search.proquest.com/openview/345aae6158819b3b9e147e32e195364c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=48899
Note: Only the preview is viewable by default. Also, N95 respirators filter much more than a normal cloth mask. The size of the pores on a N95 mask is about 300-500 nm in diameter. According to this study, most viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are less than 100 nm in size, Do the math.
Excerpt/Summary:” Indeed, the possibility that SARS, a virus of similar size to the avian flu, can pass through the N-95 mask has also been reported. In addition, the N-95 mask also has about a 10% leakage problem around the mask. It should also be noted that N-95 masks, at best, provide a seal with external leakage in the 3%–5% range. This assumes that the wearer of the mask has been properly fitted for the mask and is wearing the mask properly. The amount of inspired air that would bypass the filter and be brought around the filter and into the respiratory tract may be considerably larger. This is most apparent in individuals who are not wearing a mask correctly or who are not adequately trained in the proper fit of an N-95 mask. This is particularly problematic for family members and nonmedical personnel who may wish to use N-95 masks to prevent transmission of respiratory viruses. Therefore, there is no doubt about the possibility of the avian flu virus passing through the N-95 mask.“
- which in actuality probably means “non-existant”
- that is somewhat common
- which, at best still has 3-5% leakage…meaning no filtration of the air surrounding the mask