There are a lot of dangerous myths about coronavirus that have spread rampantly across social media (and straight-up from the White House) as the pandemic has ravaged the United States leaving 235,000 people dead and 9.65 million infected with a disease that we still don’t fully understand. With the highest number of cases since the whole thing began landing for certain demographics in just the last few weeks, seeing celebrities — particularly ones with massive followings — share misinformation is pretty upsetting and worrisome.
The latest offender? Kourtney Kardashian, who posted a very much debunked meme claiming that blue medical masks (recommended as an effective cloth face covering for slowing the spread of the virus) somehow cause cancer.
Of course, this is aggressively and scarily untrue. And a celebrity sharing it with more than 100 million instagram followers? That’s super awful from a public health perspective in a time where public health disinformation is rampant and effective at convincing people to double down on terrible decisions.
According to experts at Meedan Digital Health Lab who created a public health information hub about COVID-19 that has thoroughly debunked the mask-cancer connection memes, “Wearing a face mask does not put you at a higher risk of cancer. There is no current evidence linking the use of face masks to cancer, and science shows that any risks associated with wearing masks are low overall, while the benefits are high.”
They also go deeper into the science of why these claims are totally bunk: “Because of how tiny oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are, face masks neither decrease the amount of oxygen that enters a mask nor increase the amount of carbon dioxide that stays in a mask. As a result, face masks do not disrupt the body’s pH levels, affect the bloodstream, or alter one’s body in any way that would put someone at higher risk of cancer.”
Other Doctors — who generally tend to prefer when people do things that will not risk their own health or the health of others — were quick to blast the share as tone deaf and dangerous online.
“It’s one thing for a random people on social media to claim that masks cause cancer… it’s another for @kourtneykardash to be doing so on her Instagram stories to >100 million followers,” Dr Joshua Wolrich, an NHS Doctor and nutrition MSc student, tweeted. He concludes: “UTTERLY [F**KING] UNACCEPTABLE.”
This isn’t the Kardashian family’s first pandemic scandal — Kim’s island 40th birthday party drew the ire of the Internet for rampant displays of privilege and Kendall Jenner’s birthday party featured photos of her blowing out birthday candles (mask-less, decidedly not passing the candle test) over the shoulder of a service worker wearing a mask.
Unsurprisingly, as cases of coronavirus continue to rise in the United States, the actions and words of the rich and powerful stay disappointing.
Before you go, check out our favorite face masks to keep kids safe in the pandemic: