The surgical N95 mask has been held up as the gold standard when it comes to protecting against Covid.
But a study quietly re-shared by the National Institutes of Health in spring suggests the tight-fitting mask may expose users to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals.
Researchers from Jeonbuk National University in South Korea looked at two types of disposable medical-grade masks and several reusable cotton masks.
The study found that the chemicals released by these masks had eight times the recommended safety limit of toxic volatile organic compounds (TVOCs).
Inhaling TVOCs has been linked to health issues like headaches and nausea, while prolonged and repeated has been linked to organ damage and even cancer.
‘It is clear that particular attention must be paid to the VOCs associated with the use of KF94 [medical] masks their effects on human health,’ the researchers wrote in the study published April.
The sample with the highest amount of TVOCs had 4,808 cubic meters per microgram, which is about 4.8 parts per million.
That’s more than eight times the recommended limit.
Research carried out by the Cochrane Institute, for example, suggested that face masks made ‘little to no difference’ in Covid infections and deaths.