Report by Paula Antolini, December 1, 2021, 5:02PM EDT
The Bethel Advocate contacted Dr. Christine Carver, Bethel Superintendent of Schools, and Laura Vasile, the Town of Bethel Health Department Director, in August 2021 regarding the safety of the school masks being sold via a Bethel High School website.
We found that there is no evidence that they did any investigatory research on the safety of the actual content of the masks they sold for use by students, staff and the public.
Instead, when contacted, they just say they “follow the CDC guidelines” and kept referring the Bethel Advocate to numerous other website links, mainly the CDC, DPH, or other government websites, and never directly answered our questions about masks safety, or they endlessly delayed an accurate reply.
We sent both individuals a list of questions, but only the Director of the Bethel Health Dept., Ms. Vasile, replied at length in an email, mostly with website links though, and Dr. Carver will only speak on the telephone via appointment, and will not answer emails in writing “unless they are short” she said.
Presently, we are backlogged with half a dozen inquiry topics to which Carver still needs to reply via telephone or in writing, including several FOIA requests. Carver said she is “too busy” to reply via writing in emails, and our FOIAs will take a month or two to supply answers, she said (to simple questions). Presently, some of their FOIAs responses are overdue by 3 months. In a one sentence reply, Carver said she already answered our mask safety questions with Vasile’s email.
So for now, we will provide the following information and add updates as we receive more information and answers to the FOIAs, because it now appears the school officials are endlessly delaying responses to SAFETY issues, and to show us documented proof they did their due diligence in investigating this, which is what our original questions were about.
DUE TO THESE DELAYS from August 2021, when we first inquired about the issues to Dr. Carver and the Board of Education and the Bethel Health Department, it has taken us three months to get answers so we could provide information to our readers, even though there were no real answers regarding safety investigations or documentation papers.
It appears that none of the officials at the Bethel Public Schools or Town of Bethel Health Department addressed the actual safety of the masks themselves, regarding content of mask materials and inks used in the “sublimated” printing process.
Did the Bethel Public Schools and the Bethel Health Department do their due diligence to research the safety of these masks? The Bethel Advocate decided to find out.
Our letters to the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Christine Carver, and the Board of Education and the Bethel Health Department (BHD) in August 2021 revealed there are no official documents showing that the BHD went through an official approval process for the actual content of the masks being sold by BPS, or the printing process or inks used, for safety, or at least they have yet to mention any. We asked for documented paperwork, they ignored our question.
***There are no official documents showing that the BPS or BOE or BHD went through an official approval process for the actual content of the masks being sold by BPS, or the printing process or inks used, for safety.***
Instead, BHD Director Laura Vasile said in her email dated Aug 25, 2021, “Dr. Carver, Superintendent of Schools, and the BPS system work with the Bethel Health Department and the Town of Bethel Pandemic Response team to support school members, families, and others with the use of COVID requirements and recommendations to remain COVID free, healthy and safe. Based on the COVID response collaboration, Dr. Carver and the BPS are aware of the CDC/CT Department of Public Health MASK recommendations.”
Still no mention of safety procedures or protocol or actual proof in documents that show they actually investigated mask materials content and inks used and the printing process.
Regarding the BHD approving the actual mask being sold by BPS, Vasile said, “Throughout the pandemic, the BPS has worked with Bethel Health Department and the BPS staff, parents, and students to ensure that the types of masks worn meet the CDC recommendations and are acceptable to wear.I recommend you speak with Dr. Carver directly about the BPS system mask purchase details.” But did Vasile even see the mask or investigate it’s properties regarding materials or inks used in printing etc.? There is no evidence of that regarding documented paperwork or their response.
Vasile said, “The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) has indicated that the BPS masks distributed are acceptable for use.” Where is the paperwork that proves this statement? She sent us no evidence to support that statement.
“The DPH further advised that masks should be a “multi-layer cloth or melt-blown mask that completely covers the nose and mouth and fits closely on the face without any significant gaps.” There are good definitions/photos of a melt-blown mask online for reference” Vasile wrote. She went on to send us many CDC. DPH, links about “guide to masks” and “how to wear a mask.” That’s not what we asked.
We want to know if the content of the mask, including the inks used in printing, is safe to breathe through for students, teachers, staff and the public, to whom the masks are being sold.
None of the information sent from school officials or the Bethel Health Department, actually discussed the SAFETY of the content of the masks being sold by Bethel Public Schools.
BPS SELLING MASKS under “SCHOOL SPIRIT” wear
It appears that the Bethel Public Schools are selling masks with “school spirit” images printed on them, sold through the Bethel PTO and Bethel High School, with approval from school officials such as the Bethel School Superintendent, Dr. Christine Carver, possibly the Board of Education and we assume high school principal Mr. Christopher Troetti, since these are being sold through BHS websites. But once again, we have seen no documents showing the approval process, regarding safety, who was involved, or a safety check process, of these school spirit masks.
To begin with, to conflate “school spirit” with diligent mask wearing, is already taking a political side on the controversial issue, one in which all teachers, staff, parents, guardians, students and the public do not agree, indicating if you do not buy a mask you do not support school spirit? This is the continued use of students to push the mask agenda. Do the school officials have that right? Are parents aware of this?
So, we began our own research on masks.
We researched the school masks presently being sold by BPS for students, teachers, staff, parents, guardians, students and the public to wear on their face so they can “stay protected” as their ad says. No information on this claim of just how these masks “protect.” In fact the ad says, “not medical.“
We were alerted to the fact that Bethel Public Schools is selling their own masks to the public when we saw this ad:
Taking information from this ad, and also from the websites of companies mentioned in the ad as the manufacturers or sales contact, here is what we found:
Bethel Public Schools officials are requiring all teachers, staff and students to wear masks in school or when standing less than 3 feet from another individual, and they are free to choose their own mask, but no process seems to be in place to limit what mask they wear. The school is selling their own “spirit wear” type mask, and connecting it to “school spirit” to buy one. Is using this “school spirit” tactic coercion? Is this right?
Even though the masks being sold by BPS are labeled “non-medical” the ad says “stay protected.” What proof are they referring to that these masks “protect” teachers, staff, students and the public who wear them, in any way? And that it is not in fact detrimental to their health instead? Because of this, we investigated the actual materials used in mask manufacture and printing inks, and also contacted the companies mentioned in the ad.
After speaking with Bethel Public Schools (BPS) officials and the Bethel Health Department director, asking for mask information, it is apparent the BPS or the BHD did NOT do their own research about the mask fiber content and inks used in printing, for effects on the health of people using them, including children.
Editor Note: We did not get a response from Catoonahink.com (the email contact on the BHS website selling masks), or Holloway, or Tiger Sports to our email and phone messages for comment, nor did Dr. Carver, Bethel Superintendent of Schools, the Board of Education, or the Bethel Health Department answer our questions about mask content and safety.
ABOUT THE FABRIC CONTENT IN BPS SCHOOL MASKS AND THE INK USED IN THE PRINTING PROCESS:
What is the fabric content of school masks?
Masks are made of “100% polyester wicking knit,” reads the BPS ad.
What is polyester?
“Polyester fibers are probably the most widespread form of synthetic polymeric fiber , and most of the common polyester fibers are produced from PET,” according to sciencedirect, from: Poly(Ethylene Terephthalate) Based Blends, Composites and Nanocomposites, 2015.
What is polyethylene terephthalate (PET)?
“PET, which stands for polyethylene terephthalate, is a clear, strong and lightweight plastic belonging to the polyester family. It is typically called “polyester” when used for fibers or fabrics, and “PET” or “PET Resin” when used for bottles, jars, containers and packaging applications.” according to Pet Resin Association.
Is polyethylene terephthalate toxic?
“Making PET is an energy-intensive process. … In addition to its issues with biodegradability, PET may pose some toxicity risks. Antimony trioxide is commonly used as a catalyst in the production process. Antimony trioxide is classified as possibly carcinogenic, and some forms are potentially endocrine disrupting.
“Previous investigation by Greenpeace have shown that a wide range of textile products, manufactured and sold in
many countries around the world, can contain residues of hazardous substances, including hormone-disrupting
alkylphenols and their ethoxylates, reprotoxic phthalates and, in some cases, azo dye precursors of carcinogenic
amines.” … “Furthermore, this investigation extends the range of chemical residues tested for in a sub-set of the products to include … antimony (in products containing polyester-based fabrics).”
What is antimony?
“Antimony is used as a catalyst in the production of polyester. Synthetic fibers are the most popular fibers in the world with 65% of world production of fibers being synthetic and 35% natural fibers.”
Will the antimony in the fibers hurt me?
“There are many reasons why using recycled polyester (often called PET) is not a good choice given our climate crisis, but today’s post is concentrating on only one aspect of polyester: the fact that antimony is used as a catalyst to create PET.”
“Antimony is a carcinogen, and toxic to the heart, lungs, liver and skin. Long term inhalation causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.” … “Antimony is leached from the fibers during the high temperature dyeing process.” … “Antimony trioxide has been classified as a carcinogen in the state of California since 1990, by various agencies in the U.S. (such as OSHA, ACGIH and IARC) and in the European Union.”
THE BPS SCHOOL MASK PRINTING PROCESS
The BPS masks ad states that the masks are a “reusable, washable, sublimated mask from Holloway.”
What is the sublimated process of printing?
First, the graphic is printed onto special sublimation transfer paper as a mirror of the original design. Next, the transfer paper is placed in the heat press with the garment for about 20-30 seconds, anywhere between 380°F-400°F (depending on the poly blend garment used).
During the sublimation process the fabric is dyed by using heat-sensitive ink, that when exposed to extreme temperatures, turns from a solid to a gas – permeating the fabric. As it cools, the dye resolidifies becoming a part of the fabric itself, rather than sitting on top.
Wouldn’t this hinder breathing?
WebMD states, under “Cons of Polypropylene”: Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastic, making it more flexible or changing its shape for different uses. You may be exposed to phthalates through Inhaling – Phthalates may be used in solvents, turning them into fumes that are breathable.” … “Phthalates and BPA are dangerous because they can cause cancer, asthma, hormone imbalances, developmental delays, and reproductive problems.
Why didn’t the Bethel Public Schools administration and Board of Education and Bethel Health Department investigate the content of the masks and the printing process and inks used BEFORE selling them to the public, and saying the masks “protect you” even though they are not medical”?
This is irresponsible, unprofessional, and dangerous to anyone wearing those masks. The schools have refused to address these safety issues when repeatedly asked, they simply say they follow CDC rules about links on how to wear a mask, but have failed to show us any school or Bethel Dept. of Health documentation regarding any safety investigations whatsoever.
Parents, Guardians and School Staff, it is easy to do your own investigation for safety. Please be diligent. But this is something the Bethel Public School officials and Bethel Health Department should have easily done FIRST (but did not) before selling these masks as “safe” and “protection.”