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Journal Retracts Flawed Study That Claimed to Show Face Masks Harm Kids

It's the second retraction in less than a month for the study's lead author, who was once crowned Pseudoscientist of the Year.

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A recent paper that suggested masks may be dangerous for kids to wear has now been retracted. It’s the second pandemic-related study written by the lead author to be pulled from publication in less than a month, following the retraction of another paper claiming to show that covid-19 vaccines would kill almost as many people as they would save.

The study was published June 30 in JAMA Pediatrics as a research letter titled: “Experimental Assessment of Carbon Dioxide Content in Inhaled Air With or Without Face Masks in Healthy Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Its lead author was Harald Walach, a clinical psychologist in Germany.

Walach and his colleagues claimed to show that children who wore face masks for only minutes experienced higher than safe levels of carbon dioxide in their bloodstream as a result, presumably because the masks trapped exhaled air in the mask that the children then breathed back in. Based on their and others’ research, they further argued that “children should not be forced to wear face masks.”


The study was quickly criticized for various reasons, including the use of a possibly improper measuring device to gauge carbon dioxide levels near the mask and the lack of other relevant data, like the children’s actual blood oxygen levels. What’s worse, the JAMA study was published literally the same week that Walach’s earlier paper on vaccine safety was retracted for similar data sloppiness, though only after fierce criticism from other scientists, including editors at the very journal where it was published. Just two weeks later, Walach’s second paper would meet the same fate.

“Following publication, numerous scientific issues were raised regarding the study methodology,” the journal’s editors wrote in the retraction note now accompanying the study. As with the other paper, the authors were given the chance to argue their case, but “did not provide sufficiently convincing evidence to resolve these issues.”


Walach’s misfortune, if you want to call it that, doesn’t just stop at these two studies. In the fallout of the first retraction, Poznan University in Poland terminated its affiliation with Walach, stating that the vaccine study “misleadingly used data to yield conclusions that are wrong and may lead to public harm.”

Retractions are a healthy part of the scientific process and don’t always or even usually indicate foul play on the part of researchers. But Walach had earned a reputation as an unscientific crank long before the pandemic, having once been crowned the Pseudoscientist of the Year in 2012 by the Austrian Society for Critical Thinking over his research into alternative medicine and telepathy. So it’s worth wondering how Walach, who also seems to have no relevant experience in studying vaccines or face masks, was able to publish these terrible studies in two separate journals without any red flags popping up.