Fox News host Tucker Carlson praised a face mask investigation published as an investigative letter in… [+] JAMA Pediatrics. However, JAMA Pediatrics has now withdrawn the study due to questions about the science. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
You know that face mask study Tucker Carlson had on his FOX News show? The one originally published as research letter in JAMA Pediatrics? Well, frustrated about it. JAMA Pediatrics has withdrawn the investigation.
If you had watched the July 1 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, you would have heard Carlson claim that this “study confirms that masking children was not simply unnecessary and likely counterproductive. Masking children was legitimately dangerous for the children.” Did he say “dangerous?” Again, these are masks on children’s faces and not possums or poop. It is not the case that children have never worn a mask over their face before the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. For example, there is something called Halloween. Carlson, by the way, has about as many medical degrees as your average alpaca: zero.
Meanwhile, Alex Berenson, who does not appear to be a doctor or an alpaca, tweeted the following that same day:
Did he call a face mask a face diaper? There are big differences between the two. Face masks, for example, should be doody-free. Diapers can even have a double doody. Face masks should also be pee-free, unless you’re doing something really wrong with your face mask. Or your face, for that matter.
Anyway, what made Carlson and Berenson so excited about the study? It supposedly “measured” the carbon dioxide content of the air inhaled by 20 girls and 25 boys when they were wearing face masks versus when they were not wearing a mask. They were all within the age range of six to 17 years.
The authors claimed that those wearing face masks were breathing in levels of carbon dioxide “deemed unacceptable by the German Federal Environment Agency by a factor of 6”. They wrote that these levels were reached “after 3 minutes of measuring”. The authors concluded that their results “suggest that children should not be forced to wear face masks.”
Wow, that sounds striking. Then why don’t surgeons pass out after wearing surgical masks for several hours? Or how about Halloween? Will kids in ghost costumes or other outfits that cover their noses and mouths say, “Trick or air, I need air?”
Here’s the thing though. When you say you measured something in a scientific paper, you must be willing to describe exactly how you did it and prove that you really did what you said you did. You can’t just say, “Take my word.” Scientific articles are not like dating sites where you can say what you want. If you say you “don’t like drama” in a scientific article, be prepared for someone to question that claim.
Apparently people in the medical and scientific community have questioned this research letter, which by the way is not the same as a full scientific article. And when the editors of JAMA Pediatrics asked the authors to respond to these questions, it seemed that the authors were unable to provide adequate answers.
In an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics, an editor (Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH) and the interim editor-in-chief (Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, MBA) explained why they chose to retract the study letter. They cited numerous scientific concerns related to the research methodology, “including concerns about the applicability of the device used for assessing carbon dioxide levels in this research setting, and whether the measurements obtained provide an accurate picture of the carbon dioxide content in inhaled air, as well as issues regarding the validity of the research conclusions.” They also emphasized that the authors were unable to provide “sufficiently compelling evidence to resolve these issues.”
A closer look at the inquiry letter also reveals some “huh” statements. For example, the investigative letter began by saying, “Many governments have mandated nose and mouth coverings or face masks for schoolchildren. The evidence base for this is weak.” Still, they have not provided much evidence to support this statement. This is not the case. Studies have shown that face masks can help block respiratory droplets and that the use of face masks has been linked to lower rates of Covid-19 coronavirus infection. authors also describe their own research as “well-controlled”, which is much like describing yourself as amazing, sexy, or talented to your date. Instead, you should provide the details of the research to the readers so they can conclude whether it’s research is indeed ‘well controlled’.
Children wore face masks for most of 2020 (Photo by: Barrie Fanton/Education Images/Universal … [+] Image group via Getty Images)
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
All this reminds us that the results of one study alone are never enough to draw strong conclusions. Scientific research must be replicable. In others, other scientists should be able to replicate the research in different ways and achieve similar results. That is why it is important that several researchers look at the same scientific question. Each study can then add to the evidence which in turn gives direction to what to do.
Will Carlson now use one of his shows to tell his audience that the JAMA Pediatrics study he touted has now been withdrawn? Will he explain the concerns about the investigation? Will Berenson do the same with his tweets? Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen. If you hold your breath for too long, the carbon dioxide in your bloodstream can actually increase.