Will & Can Masks cause cancer? And if so – Why & HOW?

Now by in no way shape or form am I an anti-masker, or anti-vaxxer, but there have been many false claims in regards to masks and their side affects, from breathing issues to cancer. As someone who regularly has had to wear one for work, before it became mandatory most places, I was somewhat concerned in hearing of the many health issues that may develop from use, so I delved into researching the best I could with the resources I have at hand.

Firstly, to actually block germs, one will need to use one without a filter as shown below – Non-Medical VS Medical. With that out of the way, we proceed to the ‘breathing issue’ created once the mask is fully sealed.

Non-Medical VS Medical

Personal experience with the breathing issue, I’ve a slight trouble breathing already due to a smacking my nose from an accident years ago which makes my breathing sound laborious however, I seem to have done just fine with the cloth masks and the N95’s, but…I do find the circle style makes me dizzy…thankfully, there are a few different designs, I chose the duckbill one instead which allows a bigger air bubble past my beak of a nose, and it lets me breathe just fine. (See below for the ‘duckbill’ design.)

You also should be made aware there is a difference between KN95’s and N95’s, however the CDC has authorized the use of KN95 as a suitable alternative to N95 for its response to Covid-19. See a few article references below:

Rolling Stone
Smart Air
Popular Mechanics

Breathing issue aside, I started writing this blog post to clarify the information put forward in this Instagram video in particular.

As I’ve worked in the medical field for 6 years, 2 of which I wore a mask to ensure the patients that had open surgery didn’t get infection from us. So naturally when this whole ‘masks give you cancer’ thing came up, I was like…um…so I used them for years and I have many friends who still do, was I in danger and are they?! What I discovered was the chemical that your speaking of, Ethylene oxide, a “known carcinogen” which is used to sterilize surgical masks. And ONLY in use for hospital settings, as they it sterilize the entire package, not the individual masks, and only in rare cases do they sterilize each mask, as it is ill-advised by the FDA.

When surgical masks are sold for use by health care professionals, they may sometimes be packaged in bulk for terminal sterilization — when products are sterilized in their final packaging — and will be labeled as sterile, the spokesperson explained. If sterilized, face masks or surgical masks would likely be sterilized using ethylene oxide.

——–

According to the World Health Organization, ethylene oxide is a “potent neurotoxin, a known human carcinogen, a potential reproductive hazard, and an allergic sensitizer” that can cause health problems with acute overexposure and chronic exposure. Lymphoma and leukemia are the cancers most commonly linked to occupational exposure to ethylene oxide, although stomach and breast cancers may also be associated, according to the National Cancer Institute.

At the same time, “ethylene oxide sterilization is an important sterilization method that manufacturers widely use to keep medical devices safe,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ethylene oxide may sometimes be the only method of effectively sterilizing equipment that would otherwise be damaged in other sterilization processes, the FDA notes.

About 50% of all sterile medical devices in the U.S. are sterilized with ethylene oxide, according to the FDA. The FDA encourages medical device makers to follow consensus standards to ensure residual levels of ethylene oxide are within safe limits.

There are a limited number of online listings where manufacturers claim their masks are sterilized with ethylene oxide, also known as oxirane. However, according to the FDA, face masks sold to consumers (including cloth masks) are generally not sold as sterile, and surgical masks are not typically provided as sterile.

When surgical masks are sold for use by health care professionals, they may sometimes be packaged in bulk for terminal sterilization — when products are sterilized in their final packaging — and will be labeled as sterile, the spokesperson explained. If sterilized, face masks or surgical masks would likely be sterilized using ethylene oxide.

As with other medical devices sterilized using ethylene oxide, FDA guidance helps ensure any remaining levels are within safe limits.

Early on in the pandemic, Illinois-based medical supplies manufacturer and distributor Medline Industries sought FDA approval to resterilize used masks using ethylene oxide. Crucially, however, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends against using ethylene oxide for resterilizing single-use filtering face piece respirators — masks like N95s — due to risks associated with the chemical. 3M, which manufactures masks and personal protective equipment, also warns against using ethylene oxide to decontaminate masks because wearers could breathe in residual amounts.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/11/11/fact-check-masks-dont-lead-lung-cancer-but-some-include-chemicals/6176080002/

Ok, you say, I found a website where it says they sanitize each mask!? Now note that these are the Chinese masks that aren’t approved for use by medical nor the movies….3M, the north American maker disapproves of this method as well as the FDA.

(Also, if you do take the time to read the article above, it does address this)

There are a limited number of online listings where manufacturers claim their masks are sterilized with ethylene oxide, also known as oxirane.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/11/11/fact-check-masks-dont-lead-lung-cancer-but-some-include-chemicals/6176080002/

I feel we as humans are too quick to jump on things when we are afraid, and we end up with fearmongers stirring up the pot, when it is an issue that is already taken care of by the powers that be. Not saying they are perfect, just saying someone up the food chain thought of this problem before a keyboard warrior noticed a huge issue, which in fact isn’t allowable by the FDA. I’m not saying I’m an expert either, I’ve only done a month of online research before creating this post, I don’t work in the creation, packaging, shipping and any other part of the process of mask creation, but I’m just hoping those that say they are experts aren’t completely lying to millions with a lie so large it would kill us all off.

So with all that said, if you feel worried about your provided masks, do your own research, and buy your own N95’s if you wish to ensure that you’re not supplied incorrectly.

Now, all that being said – whether you believe in COVID or not, I’d like to just point out…I’ve only been sick ONCE this year, where I was getting sick anywhere from 3-6 times a year before COVID….it’s been nice people haven’t been spewing their germs, being a lot cleaner in general, and more germ conscious then they were before. I hope we continue to put care and effort into keeping things clean, as it’s nice not to be sick, COVID or otherwise!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s