Toxic masquerade: The effects of petrochemical masks on health and the environment

Masks are “weapons” in the “war” on COVID-19 manufactured by the petrochemical industry that have caused enormous collateral damage to human health, civil society and even the environment.

Yes, surgical and N95-style masks are made from synthetic petrochemical fibers, i.e. plastic. As I have written about previously, billions of plastic masks have already ended up in the world’s oceans, where they directly harm marine life like sea turtles, whales and especially sea birds — masks are devastating bird populations around the world.

Masks also pollute the water with countless tiny particles called “microplastics” that infiltrate the marine food chain. Billions more plastic masks have been buried and burned in landfills and incinerators, where they release petrochemicals into the soil, water, and air.

At the height of the pandemic, the world was throwing away about 3 million masks per minute.

The petrochemicals in masks are toxic. Many surgical and N95 masks contain PFAS, known as “Forever Chemicals.”

One study found that “wearing masks treated with high levels of PFAS for extended periods of time can be a notable source of exposure and have the potential to pose a health risk.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that certain PFAS compounds are more dangerous to human health than previously thought and present a risk to human health even in very tiny quantities.

Recent studies have also found microplastics in human blood and deep lung tissue for the first time ever. Those studies were not about masks, but they raise obvious questions about the effects of breathing through plastic material worn over the nose and mouth.

A research team from the Hull York Medical School in the UK found polypropylene and PET or polyethylene terephthalate, which are fibers from synthetic fabrics such as the material that surgical and N95 masks are made from, in lung tissue.

“The surprise for us was how deep it got into the lungs and the size of those particles,” their team leader said.

Clearly, public-health agencies never paused their mask campaign long enough to consider the obvious risks that petrochemicals pose to human health and the environment.

And notwithstanding these risks, Big Plastic manufacturing giants like 3M, which sold $1.5 billionof surgical and N95 masks in 2021, have every incentive to keep plastic masks rolling off the assembly line.

3M and other large companies in the multibillion-dollar petrochemical industry routinely lobby officials in Washington D.C. about the supposed benefits of masking and have been handsomely rewarded with huge public contracts to provide masks to the government.

The petrochemical industry has also engaged in heavy lobbying to defeat efforts to regulate the toxic chemicals, PFAS, found in masks and other plastic products.

In addition to the direct harmful effects of the toxic petrochemicals and microplastics in masks, countless negative social, emotional, educational, and health-related harms have been suffered by the public due to the simple act of covering people’s faces, especially those of children.

Forcibly covering people’s faces in plastic material, or useless cloth, is not “low impact” in any sense, as public-health officials wrongly declare.

Despite all this collateral damage, masks made little to no difference in the spread of the virus throughout the U.S. and the world. As with lockdowns, public-health officials rationalized mask mandates with oversimplified computer models, and with ridiculous studies on mannequins, as well as small inconclusive observational studies, not a robust scientific understanding of disease transmission in complex human societies.

Randomized controlled trials conducted before and during the pandemic showed that mask policies did not significantly reduce community transmission of respiratory viruses including COVID-19.

Even if masks were shown to have some modest effect, officials who mandated masks across vast swathes of society relied on the same faulty short-term logic that characterized lockdowns: the simple-minded notion that temporarily “tamping down” transmission of a respiratory virus is a legitimate and meaningful goal, regardless of the collateral damage.

Petrochemical masks are yet another failed, but profitable, bit of industrial technology produced by the “war” economy that has sprung up around COVID-19.

mRNA mass vaccination: What can we learn from Big Pharma’s “war” on plant and animal pathogens?

The biggest “weapons” deployed in the “war” on COVID-19, Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines, are brand-new technologies that are unlike any other vaccine in history. Despite their technological novelty, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined with unprecedented “warp speed” that mRNA shots are “safe and effective,” and initially approved them for use on an emergency basis after shockingly brief tests.

“Operation Warp Speed” was, in fact, a gargantuan military-industrial project involving four generals and dozens of other military officers. Bio-warfare planners have zeroed in on mRNA products because they can be quickly formulated and manufactured in response to a biological attack or an accidental lab leak.

Clinical testing, however, takes years to complete and cannot be sped up, only curtailed. Long testing delays are unacceptable in a “war.” Putting “shots in arms” as quickly as possible is the measure of success.

But what are the long-term consequences for human health, as well as the ecology of the viral-host equilibrium in the population, due to hastily injecting nearly the entire human species with brand-new, lightly tested mRNA technologies developed by Big Pharma with “warp speed”?

We may have no way of knowing for certain, and even trying to answer the question exposes someone to the pejorative “anti-vaxxer.” There are many rational critics of mRNA vaccines who deserve credit for standing up to name-calling and censorship, and there are some irrational critics, too. I will not wade through all of those arguments here.

Instead, as a conservationist, I tend to look for answers in the worldwide industrial “war” waged by Big Pharma (in conjunction with its corporate cousin, Big Ag) against plant and animal pathogens.

To my mind, that chemical and pharmaceutical war is an important global precedent that has some disturbing parallels to the current mRNA assault on COVID-19 and may hold important lessons about what we can expect.

For example, over three hundred million pounds of the chemical herbicide, glyphosate, are now dumped on U.S. soil every year.

Glyphosate is manufactured by Bayer, which recently acquired the original manufacturer, Monsanto, in a $66 billion merger between Big Ag and Big Pharma (a confluence of corporate interests in which Bill Gates is an interested party, through his program to “revolutionize” global food production called Gates Ag One).

The EPA, under the industry-friendly leadership of the Trump administration, determined that glyphosate is “safe” and “effective.” In June, however, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to set aside that order and reassess the risk that glyphosate poses to human health and the environment due to accumulating evidence of harms, including biodiversity loss in soils and waters laced with glyphosate.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused Bayer’s appeal of a major multi-million-dollar judgment based on the company’s failure to warn about glyphosate’s cancer risk.

Nevertheless, glyphosate use remains at extraordinarily high levels, particularly on crops that have been genetically modified to withstand exposure to the chemical. As weeds growing on about 150 million acres of U.S. soil have become resistant to glyphosate — you might call them weed variants — more and more glyphosate and other powerful herbicides are used to kill “superweeds” in a perpetually escalating chemical war against natural plant pathogens.

Similar practices are carried out by the Big Ag/ Big Pharma industry in the animal agriculture sector.

The widespread overuse of antibiotics and “leaky” vaccines that fail to prevent infection or transmission have created “superbugs” and “superviruses” in livestock animals.

A “leaky” vaccine for Marek’s Disease in chickens may have stimulated the evolution of viral variants that made the disease much more deadly, as explained in a 2015 article in Science magazine (with a title that could never be printed today) titled “Do Some Vaccines Make Viruses More Deadly?”

The authors said:

“Vaccines save millions of lives every year by teaching our immune systems how to combat certain viruses or bacteria. But a new study suggests that, paradoxically, they could sometimes teach pathogens to become more dangerous as well . . . Some vaccines don’t prevent infection, but they do reduce how sick patients become . . . such ‘imperfect’ or ‘leaky’ vaccines could give deadlier pathogens an edge, allowing them to spread when they would normally burn out quickly.”

Yet the industry continues to engage in these kinds of ecologically risky (but profitable) agricultural practices on a global scale.

The parallels between Big Ag/ Big Pharma’s chemical and pharmaceutical “wars” on plant and animal pathogens and Big Pharma’s current mRNA “war” on a human pathogen include these striking similarities:

  • Determination by corporate manufacturers and government regulators that chemical / pharmaceutical products are “safe” and “effective” before the long-term effects can possibly be known.
  • Accumulating evidence of adverse health effects after widespread use. We now know, after hundreds of millions of people have received shots in the U.S. alone, that mRNA vaccines can cause myocarditis, blood clots, facial paralysis, disruption of the menstrual cycle and a drop in sperm count, among other problems. A major pre-print study that re-examined the original mRNA vaccine clinical trials concluded that “[t]he excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest [caused by the mRNA vaccines] surpassed the risk reduction for COVID-19 hospitalization relative to the placebo group in both Pfizer and Moderna trials.”
  • Use of “leaky” vaccines. In March of 2021 Director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, said on CNN that “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick,” and a few months later Fauci guaranteed MSNBC host Chris Hayes that “when people get vaccinated they can feel safe that they are not going to get infected.” But we now know that although mRNA vaccines temporarily reduce symptoms of disease (an effect that did not decrease all-cause mortality in countries that used them), they fail to prevent infection or transmission. Even Gates himself acknowledges that the shots are “not good at infection blocking.”
  • Possible generation of new variants due to “leaky” products. Vaccinology expert Geert Vanden Bossche believes that mass vaccination with “leaky” mRNA shots is putting evolutionary pressure on the virus to generate new vaccine-resistant variants, and that mass mRNA vaccination has disrupted “the equilibrium in the viral-host ecosystem.” He has pointed to the Marek’s Disease vaccine in chickens as one potentially relevant precedent. We do not yet know whether he is right, but we do know that vaccine-resistant variants are emerging regularly. The new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, are highly resistant to vaccine-induced immunity. A study in the UK has shown that people who receive multiple boosters after being infected with the original strain of the virus are more susceptible to Omicron infection.
  • Perpetual escalation of the “war” against new variants in a vicious, but highly profitable, cycle. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sees no end to this cycle, as he predicts “constant waves” of COVID-19 variants accompanied by regular booster shots. Pfizer and its corporate partner BioNTech, along with Moderna, collectively had over $60 billion in vaccine revenue in 2021. They intend to keep the recurring-revenue business going for as long as possible, regardless of whether their own products are to blame for the emergence of variants.
  • The financial “capture” of government regulators. The FDA, the CDC, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) get much of their funding directly from the pharmaceutical industry, and from “charitable” foundations with close financial ties to that industry, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Serious financial conflicts of interest exist at every level of the drug-approval process. Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Dr. Tracey Hoeg at the Florida Department of Health recently wrote an article about the relentless calls and text messages they are receiving from doctors and scientists at the top levels of the NIH, FDA and CDC regarding conflicts of interest and pressure to approve mRNA shots and boosters. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis summed it up best when he said, “What this whole year and a half has shown us is that these regulatory agencies of the federal government have basically become subsidiaries of the pharmaceutical industry.”

If we carefully analyze each aspect of the “world war” on COVID-19, we can see how each tactic and high-tech “weapon” has harmed human health, destabilized civil society, and possibly disrupted the ecological balance between the human population and the virus, while enriching private interests and empowering financially captured government regulators.

The “war” has been characterized by the distinct pattern that I described at the beginning of this essay:

  1. Aggressive intervention in complex natural processes using new, poorly understood technologies designed to achieve narrowly defined short-term goals, with disregard for the potential long-term ramifications;
  2. Profiteering by private interests that own the technologies, enabled by government entities and “experts” that have been financially captured by those interests;
  3. Followed by a cascade of unintended consequences.

This destructive pattern appears to be deeply ingrained in our institutions and in the outlook of our leaders. It largely defines our society’s dysfunctional relationship with the natural world.

An ecological perspective that keeps this pattern in mind, and takes into account all of the consequences of launching high-tech “wars” on pathogens or any other part of our environment may help us avoid similar catastrophes in the future, or at least to recognize them.


Originally published by Brownstone Institute.