Did UNICEF and several agencies and organizations based in the United Kingdom endorse a graphic that includes misinformation about masks? No, that's not true: Six of the eight agencies and organizations included in the graphic told Lead Stories they did not co-sign the inaccurate graphic, which nonetheless pasted on their logos, including two obsolete logos. Lead Stories awaits updates from the other two, who have nowhere in the public record said they oppose mask-wearing as a COVID-19 safety measure.
The claims appear in memes and graphics circulating at the time of writing, such as this graphic included in a Facebook post (archived here) published on December 10, 2021. The graphic, titled "FACTS ABOUT MASKS" read:
OXYGEN DEPRIVATION & CO2 POISONING
Children require more oxygen than adults as their lungs are smaller and weaker. Reducing oxygen intake can cause irreversible damage to the brain, heart, & lungs.
After just one minute, CO2 levels are 25 times higher than the accepted tolerance levels.
Symptoms may include dizziness, anxiety, tiredness and reduced performance.
In the warm and moist environment of a mask, bacteria, virus & spores thrive exceptionally
well. Masks can cause skin issues, make the wearer very sick and spread disease.
We are social beings. Facial expressions are a crucial part of our learning and understanding, especially during our childhood.
Children can suffer psychological damage when unable, to communicate adequately with others.
Being unable, to recognize emotions adds to the psychological suffering.
Masks fuel anxiety and stress.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook on December 13, 2021:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Dec 13 17:31 2021 UTC)
The claims about mask risks are recycled falsehoods of the COVID misinformation complex
The information included in the graphic (and other versions like this) is not correct. Lead Stories has previously debunked claims about masks causing oxygen deprivation (here) and carbon dioxide poisoning (here and here) and masks cultivating unhealthy bacteria and causing infections (here). These claims are false.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of masks for children ages 2 and up in public schools. The guidance does not warn that such a measure may cause children psychological or physical harm.
The graphic uses the logos of six organizations without their permission, nor their endorsement of anti-mask messages.
The bottom of the graphic featured logos from the National Health Service (NHS), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UNICEF, The British Psychological Society (BPS), the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (GOSH). A graphic associated with Better Health, which includes an initiative formerly named Change4Life, was also included.
This fact check will address each agency or organization's stance on the graphic and the claims made in it. Lead Stories received the responses below from five of the agencies and organizations via email on December 10, 2021:
National Health Service (NHS) - Michael Searles, a media officer for the NHS, told Lead Stories that the graphic was "Clearly not endorsed by the NHS" and that mask guidance is set by the country's government and the UK Health Security Agency.
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - A spokesperson for the NIHR told Lead Stories:
The NIHR had no involvement in the production of this leaflet, and does not endorse or support it in any way.
The spokesperson also said that the logo used in the graphic was outdated.
UNICEF - Najwa Mekki, global media chief for UNICEF, told Lead Stories that the graphic's use of UNICEF's logo was "unauthorized" and "does not at all conform with UNICEF's position on masks." Mekki also referred us to UNICEF's COVID-19 mask tips, which comport with World Health Organization guidance that children over 5 can wear masks when public health measures call for masking.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) - Gareth Hill, a senior media officer for NSPCC, said:
I can confirm the logo has been used without our permission and we certainly do not endorse the information on this poster.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (GOSH) - A spokesperson for GOSH told Lead Stories:
We've not had any involvement in the creation of this poster, and we have not authorised the use of the GOSH Charity logo on it. To note, this is also an old version of our logo which has since been updated.
In an email to Lead Stories on December 13, 2021, a spokesperson for The British Psychological Society said that the graphic was not sponsored by the organization.
Lead Stories reached out to the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) and Better Health for their comment on the graphic but did not receive a response at the time of writing. We did not find evidence in the public record that the NCRI or Better Health have addressed COVID-19 mask safety, let alone supported the points included in the graphic.