Abundance and characterization of personal protective equipment (PPE) polluting Kish Island, Persian Gulf

Sedigheh Mohamadi, Reyhane Madadi, Md Refat Jahan Rakib, Gabriel E. De-la-Torre, Abubakr M. Idris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental threats the world is facing nowadays, which was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, multiple reports of single-use plastics driven by the pandemic, namely personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., face masks and gloves), contaminating coastal areas have been published. However, most studies focused solely on counting and visually characterizing this type of litter. In the present study, we complement conventional reports by characterizing this type of litter through chemical-analytical techniques. Standardized sampling procedures were carried out in Kish Island, The Persian Gulf, resulting in an average density of 2.34 × 10−4 PPE/m2. Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy confirmed the polymeric composition of weathered face masks and showed the occurrence of additional absorption bands associated with the photooxidation of the polymer backbone. On the other hand, the three layers of typical surgical face masks showed different non-woven structures, as well as signs of physical degradation (ruptures, cracks, rough surfaces), possibly leading to the release of microplastics. Furthermore, elemental mapping through energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy showed that the middle layer of the masks allocated more elements of external origin (e.g., Na, Cl, Ca, Mg) than the outer and inner layers. This is likely to the overall higher surface area of the middle layer. Furthermore, our evidence indicates that improperly disposed PPE is already having an impact on a number of organisms in the study area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number158678
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date11 Sep 2022
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Contamination
  • Glove
  • Mask
  • Plastic
  • Polypropylene


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