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Disposable plastic face masks could harm the earth for 450 years

450 years. No that’s not how long we’ve been living with this pandemic, though it is starting to feel that way. 450 is the number of years it takes for “single-use” daily plastic face masks (DPFs) to degrade. These are masks that researchers at Swansea University have found to contain toxins like lead, copper, and antimony after being exposed to water.

In the year 2020, more than 52 billion masks were produced worldwide. That’s 50 billion plus products that will live on this earth long after we’re gone, expressing known human carcinogens. Scientists studied the effect of exposing 7 different brands of masks to water, hoping to mirror their life on earth following us throwing them in the garbage because we wore them in a doctor’s office or grocery store for 30 minutes. Researchers at Swansea concluded that, “There is a concerning amount of evidence that suggests DPFs potentially have a substantial environmental impact.” According to lead researcher Dr. Sarper Sarp, it’s not out of the question for DPFs to be a key contributor of environmental contaminants long after the pandemic ends.

What may be most important in the present is the number of toxins we may be inhaling while wearing these masks. Dr. Sarp and his associates are seeking a “full investigation” to determine just how many toxins are inhaled during normal breathing while wearing DPFs. So, are they encouraging you to stop wearing a mask? No. They are however asking for tougher laws when it comes to the “manufacturing and disposal/recycling of DPFs to minimize the environmental impact.” Clearly, more research and work needs to be done on this topic. Stay tuned.

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