Most face masks don’t expose wearers to harmful levels of PFAS, study says —

Face masks are necessary for slowing the unfold of COVID-19 and defending in opposition to smoke. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are added to many merchandise to repel fluids, however their presence in face masks hasn’t been completely studied. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Expertise Letters discovered that the majority face masks examined comprise low or negligible ranges of PFAS, apart from one marketed to firefighters, which might pose well being dangers in sure conditions.

Producers design face masks to not solely forestall inhalation of particles and pathogens but additionally to repel fluids, so some corporations might be including PFAS coatings to their merchandise. In the course of the present pandemic, folks have been carrying face masks for lengthy intervals, which might expose them to PFAS by way of inhalation, pores and skin publicity or unintentional ingestion. As well as, used masks find yourself in landfills, the place the compounds would possibly leach out into the atmosphere. Ivan Titaley at Oregon State College and colleagues needed to measure PFAS in several types of face masks and analyze the implications for human publicity and the atmosphere.

The researchers used mass spectrometry to measure nonvolatile and unstable PFAS in 9 sorts of face masks: one surgical, one N95, six reusable fabric and a heat-resistant material masks marketed to firefighters. Surgical and N95 masks had the bottom ranges, whereas the firefighting masks had the best quantity. Subsequent, the crew estimated the dose of PFAS that might trigger well being issues from continual publicity, based mostly on prior animal research. In response to the calculations, common put on of the surgical, N95 and fabric masks wouldn’t pose a danger. Nevertheless, the upper PFAS ranges within the firefighter masks exceeded the dose thought-about protected, however solely when worn for a full day (10 hours) at a excessive exercise degree, reminiscent of exercising or working in ways in which increase the wearer’s respiration. Subsequent, the researchers analyzed the environmental impression of PFAS from surgical and N95 masks (which comprise over 99% of masks discarded in landfills). They estimated that even when everybody within the U.S. over age 5 threw away one masks per day (90 billion masks per yr), masks can be solely a minor supply of PFAS in landfill leachates and home water.

In response to the researchers, this research ought to encourage the general public to proceed carrying face masks, particularly throughout a pandemic. It might additionally assist folks make knowledgeable selections about what kind of masks to put on and encourage producers to think about the chemical substances utilized in masks, they clarify.

The authors acknowledge funding or help from the Nationwide Science Basis, Nationwide Institutes of Well being, Environmental Safety Company, Division of Agriculture and the North Carolina Coverage Collaboratory.

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Supplies offered by American Chemical Society. Observe: Content material could also be edited for model and size.