Toxins in disposable masks can harm humans and the environment

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SWANSEA, United Kingdom ( – A recent study reveals that disposable masks can spread harmful toxins into the environment. Researchers at Swansea University have discovered significant amounts of toxins (lead, copper and antimony) coming out of several masks after exposure to water. To make matters worse, a recent study reveals that these masks can spread harmful toxins into the environment.

Since the pandemic, demand for disposable plastic face masks (DPFs) has skyrocketed. In 2020, production facilities, mostly in China, produced more than 52 billion masks – some up to 450 million per day. Although these are “single-use” items, research estimates that it could take up to 450 years for face masks to degrade.

Experts are now wondering whether plastic masks are safe enough for people to use every day. In addition, given the number of masks do not go in the trash, these results are alarming.

“We all must continue to wear masks because they are essential to end the pandemic. But we also urgently need more research and regulations on the production of masks, so that we can reduce the risks to the environment and human health, ”says lead researcher Dr Sarper Sarp of the College of Swansea Engineering.

Carcinogenic chemicals in face masks?

To ensure conclusive testing, a team of scientists analyzed seven different brands of disposable masks. They soaked all the masks in water to model the actual environmental circumstances of those who end up as trash or rubbish. The results revealed traces of heavy metals like lead and other toxins, such as carcinogenic chemicals in water.

“It is therefore imperative that more stringent regulations are applied during the manufacture and disposal / recycling of DPFs in order to minimize the impact on the environment. It is also necessary to understand the impact of such particle leaching on public health, ”concludes the author of the study. “Therefore, a full investigation is needed to determine the quantities and potential impacts of these particles leaching into the environment and levels inhaled by users during normal breathing. This is a significant concern, especially for healthcare professionals, key workers and children who are mandatory to wear masks for much of the work or school day.

This study is published in the journal Water research.

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