Personal protective equipment (PPE) disposal during COVID-19: An emerging source of microplastic and microfiber pollution in the environment

Muhammad Tariq KHAN, Izaz Ali SHAH, Md Faysal HOSSAIN, Nasrin AKTHER, Yanbo ZHOU, Muhammad Sajawal KHAN, Muayad AL-SHAELI, Muhammad Suleman BACHA, Ihsanullah IHSANULLAH

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

Waste generated by healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a new source of pollution, particularly with the widespread use of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE). Releasing microplastics (MPs) and microfibers (MFs) from discarded PPE becomes an emerging threat to environmental sustainability. MPs/MFs have recently been reported in a variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, including water, deep-sea sediments, air, and soil. As COVID-19 spreads, the use of plastic-made PPE in healthcare facilities has increased significantly worldwide, resulting in massive amounts of plastic waste entering the terrestrial and marine environments. High loads of MPs/MFs emitted into the environment due to excessive PPE consumption are easily consumed by aquatic organisms, disrupting the food chain, and potentially causing chronic health problems in humans. Thus, proper management of PPE waste is critical for ensuring a post-COVID sustainable environment, which has recently attracted the attention of the scientific community. The current study aims to review the global consumption and sustainable management of discarded PPE in the context of COVID-19. The severe impacts of PPE-emitted MPs/MFs on human health and other environmental segments are briefly addressed. Despite extensive research progress in the area, many questions about MP/MF contamination in the context of COVID-19 remain unanswered. Therefore, in response to the post-COVID environmental remediation concerns, future research directions and recommendations are highlighted considering the current MP/MF research progress from COVID-related PPE waste. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date19 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2022

Citation

Khan, M. T., Shah, I. A., Hossain, M. F., Akther, N., Zhou, Y., Khan, M. S., . . . Ihsanullah, I. (2022). Personal protective equipment (PPE) disposal during COVID-19: An emerging source of microplastic and microfiber pollution in the environment. Science of the Total Environment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160322

Keywords

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Microplastics
  • Microfibers
  • Health risks
  • COVID-19
  • PG student publication

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