Fact Check-Masks do not expose children to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide

Online claims that children wearing face masks for COVID-19 are being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide are false. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends face masks for children over the age of two for protection against the spread of COVID-19.

An example of messaging suggesting that masking children for COVID-19 protection exposes them to harmful carbon dioxide levels is visible here . The post containing a screenshot from Life Site News, (here) reads, “Face masks cause children to inhale six times the safe limit of carbon dioxide, study finds.” The attention-grabbing photo is paired with a user caption reading, “Think there is nothing wrong with masks? Masks are harmful, don’t work, unnecessary, and unconstitutional!”

The June 2021 study referenced in the article has since been retracted by the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA). According to its website, JAMA is an international peer-reviewed medical journal (here) published since 1883.

The study, seen here , was withdrawn on July 16, 2021 (here).

The editors cited issues raised regarding the study’s methodology, carbon dioxide measurement devices, assessment results, and the study team’s responses to peer review inquiries. According to JAMA editors, the authors of the medical opinion “did not provide sufficiently convincing evidence to resolve these issues, as determined by editorial evaluation and additional scientific review.”

In July 2021, some news organizations published the study’s findings (archived examples are visible and ). The claims surfaced on social media sites in the days following the study’s initial publication on June 30, 2021.

Reuters has previously addressed mask safety for children during the pandemic in fact-checks visible here and here .

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF advise that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.” WHO recommendations regarding face masks for children of all ages are visible here . A video describing how and when children should wear masks can be seen here .

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) addresses common misconceptions regarding kids and cloth face coverings in a MythBusters blog post visible here .

The guidance explicitly addresses carbon dioxide concerns, asserting, “There have been false reports that face masks can lead to carbon dioxide poisoning (known as hypercapnia) from re-breathing the air we normally breathe out. But this is not true.” The guidance explains, “carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even smaller than respiratory droplets. They cannot be trapped by breathable materials like cloth or disposable masks.”

A spokesperson for the AAP told Reuters via email that “there is absolutely no truth to that statement” in response to Reuters’ inquiry into whether face masks cause children to inhale six times the safe limit of carbon dioxide.

Reuters previously fact-checked claims that wearing a face-mask can causes hypercapnia, here .

Angela Myers, Director of Infectious Disease for Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri, told Reuters via email, that for children who can put on and take off their mask without help, “wearing a mask is a safe and effective way to prevent infection transmission.”

Myers felt the clarification was crucial as children go back to school and are close to each other and their teachers.


False. Pediatricians and world health experts recommend masks for the prevention of COVID-19 transmission. The publishing medical journal that these posts base their claim on has retracted the medical study discouraging mask wearing for children due to lack of evidence.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .