November 26, 2020

The scary truth behind Halloween masks

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The scariest part about Halloween this year could be what’s hiding inside your mask.

As you try on different costumes for Halloween this year, consider the amount of times someone else has tried on that mask before you. Germs are easily transferred from one person to another by this simple act.

We bought seven new Halloween masks from four different stores, swabbed them and sent the samples to be tested for bacteria. Lab techs at the Hoosier Microbiological Lab in Muncie took our results and put them under a microscope.

The results are pretty gross. Every single mask we swabbed had traces of bacteria.

“The general bacteria count, those ended up coming back pretty high,” said Jaima Ballentine who works at the lab.

People loved putting on a Panda and Unicorn head and then putting them back on the shelf. Their tests revealed more than 300 bacteria colonies in just the small area we swabbed.

A Donald Trump mask, which also goes over your head, pulled in even more germs: 500 bacteria colonies.

But the stomach turning test belonged to one of the most popular costumes this year: Pennywise, the “IT” mask. This one grew a whopping 1,000 bacteria colonies in just one swab.

What does that mean?

Consider this: Health officials only allow 200 bacteria colonies for every milliliter of pool water you swim in. These tests would have shut down a pool. Imagine that all over your face.

At best, someone else’s bacteria on your skin can cause acne. At worst, if you’ve got an open wound, even a small cut, those microscopic germs could lead to an infection.

The good news is not every mask is that dirty. We found the smaller, front face only masks had the least amount of bacteria. Ballentine said that could be because they air out, killing bacteria, while the other full head masks provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow.

“Not to be gross, but people are putting it on and get sweaty,” she said. “It is humid in there so it could be a good place for bacteria to breed.”

So before you go out and put another mask on your face, remember that we tested these masks before the Halloween rush.

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea if you want to carry Lysol wipes in your purse and before you put that mask on your kid’s face, go ahead and wipe it down.”

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