U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) cautioned yesterday that "microplastics are a macro problem" that impact personal health and the environment as the tiny particles start to accumulate. He called for strong federal steps to stop buying single use plastics, as well as other measures.
But what about impact of face masks on personal health and the environment?
After all, Da Nang Dick was telling people to wear face masks throughout the entire covid pandemic, encouraging people to directly breathe microplastics into their lungs for extended periods of time even while outside in the fresh air.
He even announced the "Encouraging Masks for All Act" legislation on November 25, 2020, with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) that encouraged states to require the use of face masks in all public spaces and outside, and mandated mask usage on all federal properties. Senators Markey and Blumenthal also repeatedly called on the Trump administration to mandate masks on airplanes.
“Wearing a mask should be considered a moral and health mandate—our primary defense against the coronavirus,” said Senator Blumenthal. “With cases skyrocketing as we head into the holidays, the Encouraging Masks for All Act would bring us closer to ensuring every American has a face mask and wears it. Even with a vaccine, mask wearing is an essential tool in conquering COVID-19, along with physical distancing and other common sense public health steps.”
He didn't seem to care at all about the risk of microplastics back in 2020. Or the truth about the efficacy of face masks either, but that's another story.
It turns out that those blue surgical masks that were so popular during covid are made with melt-blown fabric, and the core material used in mask production is polypropylene (PP).
Surgical masks have three layers. The front and back covers are made of PP, with a fiber diameter of approximately 20 µm. The middle layer of surgical masks is melt-blown fabric, which is the core material for virus rejection. Microplastics or nanoplastics can be generated during the use and reuse of masks made from the aforementioned materials (Aragaw, 2020, Fadare and Okoffo, 2020). This condition can lead to the risk of microplastic inhalation via breathing.COVID-19: Performance study of microplastic inhalation risk posed by wearing masks
So wearing masks potentially results in the inhalation of microplastics.
Furthermore, common disinfection processes can damage the structure of masks, further increasing the risk of inhaling microplastics generated from masks.
It's not just the microplastics that you inhale from masks, but face masks are also a potential source of microplastic fibers in the environment. And who hasn't seen masks littered on the ground?
Single use disposable face masks that get to the environment through disposal in landfills, dumpsites, freshwater, oceans or littering at public spaces, could also be an emerging new source of microplastic fiber pollution, as masks can degrade, fragment and/or break down into microplastics.
The research goes on to highlight another implication of face mask litter in the environment, which is the possibility of acting as a medium for disease outbreak, as plastic particles are known to propagate microbes such as invasive pathogens (Reid et al., 2019).
Where does Blumenthal stand on the serious personal health risks posed by microplastics embedded in face masks? Or the growing problem posed by face masks littered in the environment?
Will he back mask mandates ever again knowing the microplastics risks they pose?
With growing rumors of masks coming back into play ahead of 2024, we just might get the answer to that question sooner rather than later.