The COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden global increase in the production, consumption, and mismanagement of personal protective equipment (PPE). As plastic-based PPE such as disposable face masks and gloves have become widely used, human exposure to PPE-derived pollutants may occur through indirect and direct pathways. This review explores the potential health impacts related to plastic-based PPE through these pathways. Face masks release microplastics, which are directly inhaled during use or transported through the environment. The latter can adsorb chemical contaminants and harbor pathogenic microbiota, and once consumed by organisms, they can translocate to multiple organs upon intake, potentially causing detrimental and cytotoxic effects. However, more research is required to have a comprehensive overview of the human health effects.
- Personal protective equipment
- Plastic pollution