It's been quite a few weeks for the Kardashian-Jenner clan. From Kendall Jenner's mask-less Halloween bash to Kim Kardashian's private island excursion with her "inner circle," the famous family has been under fire for appearing to flagrantly disregard many COVID-19 regulations (even after Khloe Kardashian tested positive for it earlier this year). Now, the eldest sibling has allegedly shared a COVID conspiracy theory to her 102 million Instagram followers.
In a screengrab posted to Twitter, it appears that Kourtney Kardashian reposted a mask conspiracy theory to her Instagram story from an unknown source on October 31, hours before she attended Kendall's party dressed as a maskless Hot Dog On A Stick employee. The story in question shows a photo of a blue surgical mask with text saying that wearing the common mask can increase the risk of certain cancers and diseases, give you flu-like symptoms, and even cause suffocation, attributing these claims to Cancer.org.
The conspiracy points to the substance polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as the main culprit, an FDA-approved substance that's used in some surgical masks and commonly known by its brand name Teflon. According to the New York Post, Kourtney allegedly added a wide-eyed emoji and a head-exploding emoji to her post.
While it's true that PTFE is used in some masks, it's highly unlikely to cause these illnesses if you're using it normally — full stop. The post appears to be listing symptoms of polymer fume fever, which is caused by inhaling the fumes from PTFE that's burned at 300 to 400 degrees Celsius. So as long as you're not going out and setting fire to your masks, you should be in the clear.
Danielle Belardo, MD, director of cardiology at the Institute of Plant-Based Medicine, tweeted that Kourtney sharing this to her followers is "unbelievably dangerous," and urged doctors and scientists to "keep combatting misinformation — no matter how tiring it gets."
Other doctors chimed in as well. "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. UTTERLY FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE," tweeted Joshua Wolrich, MBBS, MRCS, surgical doctor for the United Kingdom National Health Service.
In regards to Kardashian's alleged post, William Cance, MD, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, the organization behind Cancer.org, had this to say: "There is no evidence to support the claim that the presence of PTFE in a mask causes cancer. As a surgical oncologist, I, along with thousands of colleagues in the health care profession, have been wearing masks for years to protect patients from the spread of infections."
This isn't the first COVID-conspiracy being peddled on social media, and it likely won't be the last. Keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and social distancing, and be aware of how you're receiving information — just because your favorite celeb posts it to their Instagram, doesn't mean it's true.
Refinery29 reached out to Kourtney Kardashian for comment and will update this story if we hear back.