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Science Technology and Environment

New study examines the environmental and health impact of disposable masks

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Elizabeth McDaniel
/
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A study out of the U.K. raises questions about the environmental and health impacts of single-use, disposable face masks.

Researchers from Swansea University cite two main concerns in their study: the impact on health and also on the environment.

When the team exposed seven brands of disposable masks to water, they recorded significant levels of lead, copper and antimony being released — all of which can cause serious health problems in people and animals.

When users fail to dispose of masks appropriately, researchers from Denmark and the United States say these masks made from micro-sized plastic fibers may release a substantial amount of micro-sized plastics into waterways with potentially catastrophic results for ecosystems. And because it takes an estimated 450 years for face masks to degrade, it’s a problem that could stick around for generations.

Globally, 3 million face masks are being disposed of every minute, many of which don’t make it to a trash can.

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