Degradation of plastics associated with the COVID-19 pandemic

Carlos Ivan Pizarro-Ortega, Diana Carolina Dioses-Salinas, Melisa D. Fernández Severini, Ana D. Forero López, Guido Noé Rimondino, Nsikak U. Benson, Sina Dobaradaran, Gabriel Enrique De-la-Torre

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented form of plastic pollution: personal protective equipment (PPE). Numerous studies have reported the occurrence of PPE in the marine environment. However, their degradation in the environment and consequences are poorly understood. Studies have reported that face masks, the most abundant type of PPE, are significant sources of microplastics due to their fibrous microstructure. The fibrous material (mostly consisting of polypropylene) exhibits physical changes in the environment, leading to its fracture and detachment of microfibers. Most studies have evaluated PPE degradation under controlled laboratory conditions. However, in situ degradation experiments, including the colonization of PPE, are largely lacking. Although ecotoxicological studies are largely lacking, the first attempts to understand the impact of MPs released from face masks showed various types of impacts, such as fertility and reproduction deficiencies in both aquatic and terrestrial organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113474
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Characterization techniques
  • Mask
  • Microplastic
  • Pollution
  • Protective equipment


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