Uncontrolled Disposal of Used Masks Resulting in Release of Microplastics and Co-Pollutants into Environment

Changrong Zhao, Zhang Ting, Zhaoyang You, Hyunook Kim, Kinjal J. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The global panic caused by COVID-19 has continued to increase people’s demand for masks. However, due to inadequate management and disposal practice, these masks have, unfortunately, entered the environment and release a large amount of microplastics (MPs), posing a serious threat to the environment and human health. Understanding the occurrence of mask waste in various environments, release of mask-origin MPs, and related environmental risk is essential to mask-waste management in current and future epidemic prevention and control. This paper focuses on the global distribution of mask waste, the potential release of waste-origin MPs, and the impact on the environment. Specifically, the physical and chemical properties of polypropylene (the most common plastic material in a mask), which show a high adsorption capacity for heavy metals and organic pollutants and play a role as a support for microbial growth, were extensively reported. In addition, several important issues that need to be resolved are raised, which offers a direction for future research. This review focuses on the essentiality of handling masks to avoid potential environmental issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2403
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • COVID-19
  • masks
  • microfibers
  • microplastics
  • polypropylene


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