Dear Headteachers and School Governors,
I am writing to you today regarding the recent news headlines stating that the nation's schoolchildren will be required to wear face coverings upon their return to school this week.
After two years of profound and chronic disruption to their educational and social lives, resulting in deep distress for many children, this move is being posited as "a way to get things back to normal".
However, imposing facial coverings on children is anything but "normal", and, as a robust catalogue of scientific and scholarly evidence attests (1, 2, 3), is likely to negatively impact on their health and development in many ways, some of which may be irreversible.
In the first instance, please allow me to underscore the fact that there is no reliable evidence that the wearing of face masks outside of scrupulously maintained surgical settings has any net positive effect on health, nor on the reduction of the transmission of viral disease. Surgeons in operating theatres maintain impeccable standards of hygiene which allows the wearing of a mask to afford some potential benefit, but please note this benefit relates to preventing the spread of bacteria from the surgeon's mouth and nose into the open wound of a patient they are operating on, and not to preventing the spread of viruses. Masks have no impact on reducing respiratory viral transmission (4).
Schools and teenagers are not comparable environments to hospitals and surgeons, and no teenager has had the professional training to furnish them with the ability to wear a mask hygienically. These devices, when worn by teenagers, will be touched repeatedly, contaminated with food debris and coughs and sneezes, stuffed into pockets and looped around wrists, infrequently washed, and improperly discarded of. The sum total of these factors alone means that mask-wearing will serve to undermine, rather than augment, health - but further threatening the health of teenagers is that mask-wearing is shown by multiple comprehensive studies to interfere with optimal breathing and oxygen supply, and can therefore dramatically increase the possibility of many and various negative health outcomes, some of them severe (see reference section). In particular, in an educational environment, is the fact the brain needs oxygen to learn and cannot perform this task optimally when oxygen supply is impeded by covering the mouth and nose with a mask. Well-known neurologist, Dr. Margarite Griesz-Brisson, has stated:
"For children and adolescents, masks are an absolute no-no. Children and adolescents have an extremely active and adaptive immune system and they need a constant interaction with the microbiome of the Earth. Their brain is also incredibly active, as it is has so much to learn. The child’s brain, or the youth’s brain, is thirsting for oxygen. The more metabolically active the organ is, the more oxygen it requires. In children and adolescents every organ is metabolically active.
"To deprive a child’s or an adolescent’s brain from oxygen, or to restrict it in any way, is not only dangerous to their health, it is absolutely criminal. Oxygen deficiency inhibits the development of the brain, and the damage that has taken place as a result CANNOT be reversed." (5)
Furthermore, it is not just children's physical health that is threatened by mask-wearing, but their emotional, social, and psychological development, too. Teenagers going through puberty are at a critical stage of their development in terms of establishing an identity and forging and maintaining social bonds. Our identity as human beings on a physical level - how other people ultimately recognise us - is our face. No physical feature is more identifying or more unique than the face, and therefore, covering it up is interfering with and obscuring a profound and central part of unique human identity. This makes teenagers less individual, less unique, and, ultimately, less human. This is not hyperbole, given that masking has traditionally been associated with demarcating classes of people who are seen as less than human, such as slaves.
The psychology of prolonged mask-wearing is well studied and well understood, and when it is imposed on children who are not yet fully developed and are still acquiring critical social and communicative skills, this risks profoundly impairing them in ways that we may not be able to undo.
Mask-wearing dramatically inhibits communication by muffling the voice, disguising facial expressions, and disabling the ability to lip read. Even for those who are not hearing impaired, watching mouth movements is often a critical part of clearly understanding what others are saying. Some students, of course, are hearing impaired, which makes being surrounded by masked individuals all day a particularly distressing and alienating experience, while other students have visual problems and will struggle to recognise each other without being able to see faces. These concerns have been echoed by many experts across the world (6) who have cautioned that the risks to children of mask-wearing far outweigh any potential benefits.
In closing, we simply cannot say what the effects of this unprecedented psychological experiment of masking the nation's children will be, nor what kind of adults will develop following spending some of their most delicate and formative years covering their faces, and being unable to see the faces of their peers and friends. We cannot say this is a safe thing to do, because it has never before been attempted, and there is therefore no data to assure us of the consequences. What data there is about the effects of prolonged mask-wearing on individuals' - and particularly children's - physical, emotional, and psychological health, suggests the consequences could be catastrophic.
Please consider these facts very carefully before you commit to mandating mask-wearing in your school, and please take the commitment you have made to nurturing and best preparing for life the next generation, very seriously indeed.
Miri Finch [or your name, if you want to send it to your local schools]
1, E Person, C Lemercier et al. Effect of a surgical mask on six minute walking distance. Rev Mal Respir. 2018 Mar; 35(3):264-268.
2. B Chandrasekaran, S Fernandes. Exercise with facemask; are we handling a devil’s sword – a physiological hypothesis. Med Hypothese. 2020 Jun 22. 144:110002.
3. A Chughtai, S Stelzer-Braid, et al. Contamination by respiratory viruses on our surface of medical masks used by hospital healthcare workers. BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Jun 3; 19(1): 491.
4. T Jefferson, M Jones, et al. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. MedRxiv. 2020 Apr 7.