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Disposable FFP2 and Type IIR Medical-Grade Face Masks: An Exhaustive Analysis into the Leaching of Micro- and Nanoparticles and Chemical Pollutants Linked to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Javier Delgado Gallardo, Geraint L. Sullivan Orcid Logo, MATTHEW TOKARYK, J. E. Russell, G. R. Davies, K. V. Johns, Ann Hunter, Trystan Watson Orcid Logo, Sarper Sarp Orcid Logo

ACS EST Water, Volume: 2, Issue: 4, Pages: 527 - 538

Swansea University Authors: Javier Delgado Gallardo, Geraint L. Sullivan Orcid Logo, MATTHEW TOKARYK, Ann Hunter, Trystan Watson Orcid Logo, Sarper Sarp Orcid Logo

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the worldwide production and use of disposable plastic face masks (DPFMs). The release of micro- and nanopollutants into the environment is one of the impacts derived from regulated and unregulated disposal of DPFMs. This study focuses on the emission of pollutant...

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Published in: ACS EST Water
ISSN: 2690-0637 2690-0637
Published: American Chemical Society (ACS) 2022
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59905
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Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the worldwide production and use of disposable plastic face masks (DPFMs). The release of micro- and nanopollutants into the environment is one of the impacts derived from regulated and unregulated disposal of DPFMs. This study focuses on the emission of pollutants from medical-grade DPFMs when submerged in deionized water, simulating regulated and unregulated disposal of these masks. Three brands of FFP2 and three brands of Type IIR medical masks, produced in various countries (UK, EU, and non-EU), were investigated. Field emission gun scanning electron microscopy (FEG-SEM) was used to obtain high-resolution images of the micro- and nanoparticles, and 0.02 μm pore size inorganic membranes were used to retain and subsequently analyze smaller particle size nanoparticles (>20 nm) released from the DPFMs. Particles and fibers in the micro- and nanoscale were found in all six DPFM brands. SEM with energy-dispersive spectroscopy analysis revealed the presence of particles containing different heavy metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis confirmed the leaching of trace heavy metals to water (antimony up to 2.41 μg/L and copper up to 4.68 μg/L). Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis identified polar organic species related to plastic additives and contaminants such as polyamide-66 monomers and oligomers.
Keywords: microplastics, nanoplastics, heavy metals, COVID-19 PPE, disposable masks, medical-grade masks
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: We would like to acknowledge grant support from EPSRC (EP/R51312X/1; EP/N020863/1) and Swansea University College of Engineering. Assistance was provided by the Swansea University College of Engineering AIM facility, which is funded in part by the EPSRC (EP/M028267/1), the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government (80708), and Ser Solar project via Welsh Government.
Issue: 4
Start Page: 527
End Page: 538