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Environ Pollut ; 285: 117485, 2021 Sep 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1252841


The consumption of disposable face masks increases greatly because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inappropriate disposal of wasted face masks has already caused the pollution of the environment. As made from plastic nonwoven fabrics, disposable face masks could be a potential source of microplastics for the environment. In this study, we evaluated the ability of new and used disposable face masks of different types to release microplastics into the water. The microplastic release capacity of the used masks increased significantly from 183.00 ± 78.42 particles/piece for the new masks to 1246.62 ± 403.50 particles/piece. Most microplastics released from the face masks were medium size transparent polypropylene fibers originated from the nonwoven fabrics. The abrasion and aging during the using of face masks enhanced the releasing of microplastics since the increasing of medium size and blue microplastics. The face masks could also accumulate airborne microplastics during use. Our results indicated that used disposable masks without effective disposal could be a critical source of microplastics in the environment. The efficient allocation of mask resources and the proper disposal of wasted masks are not only beneficial to pandemic control but also to environmental safety.

COVID-19 , Microplastics , Humans , Masks , Pandemics , Plastics , SARS-CoV-2