Face Masks - Protecting the Wearer but Neglecting the Aquatic Environment? A Perspective from Bangladesh

Hasan, N.A., Heal, R.D., Bashar, A., Haque, M.M., 2021. Face masks - protecting the wearer but neglecting the aquatic environment? A perspective from Bangladesh. Environ. Challenges 100126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envc.2021.100126

38 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2020 Last revised: 30 Apr 2021

See all articles by Neaz A. Hasan

Neaz A. Hasan

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh

Richard D Heal

Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)

Abul Bashar

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh

Mohammad Mahfujul Haque

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh

Date Written: September 28, 2020

Abstract

In Bangladesh, as with many countries, the spread of COVID-19 made the wearing of single-use face masks, a non-pharmaceutical intervention to reduce viral transmission, surge in popularity amongst the general population. Consequently, irresponsible discarding of used masks into the environment, and mismanagement of the waste they produce, is potentially placing a large pollution burden on aquatic ecosystems in the country. Slow degradation of mask-derived polypropylene and polyethylene fibres creates large reservoirs of microplastic pollutants and these have acute and chronic effects on aquatic organism physiology. Using literature reviews, extrapolation of published data, and field observations, we present an emerging issue of pollution from COVID-19 personal protective equipment such as face masks in Bangladesh. We have estimated the volume of waste generated and document the potential consequences of its improper disposal, and subsequent degradation, in aquaculture ponds within country. In a field survey of 30 ponds in the Muktagacha upazilla, 76.7% were found to have plastics in contact with the water, or within 1m of the pond, and there was an average of 63 pieces of macro-plastic pollution per 5m2. This included floating discarded face masks. Bangladesh has a rich freshwater and marine resource which it depends upon for export trade, nutrition of the population, and jobs. To mitigate potential acute and chronic impacts on aquaculture and the environment, recommendations are made that, if adopted, would reduce entry of microplastics into the aquatic environments via face mask waste mismanagement.

Keywords: Face mask; Polypropylene and Polyethylene; Aquatic environment; Microplastic pollution; COVID-19

JEL Classification: Q53, Q58

Suggested Citation

Hasan, Neaz A. and Heal, Richard D and Bashar, Abul and Haque, Mohammad Mahfujul, Face Masks - Protecting the Wearer but Neglecting the Aquatic Environment? A Perspective from Bangladesh (September 28, 2020). Hasan, N.A., Heal, R.D., Bashar, A., Haque, M.M., 2021. Face masks - protecting the wearer but neglecting the aquatic environment? A perspective from Bangladesh. Environ. Challenges 100126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envc.2021.100126, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3722737 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3722737

Neaz A. Hasan (Contact Author)

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh ( email )

Department of Aquaculture
Bangladesh Agricultural University
Mymensingh, 2202
Bangladesh

Richard D Heal

Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) ( email )

Weymouth Laboratory
The Nothe, Barrack Road
Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UB
United Kingdom

Abul Bashar

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh ( email )

BAU, Mymensingh
Mymensingh, 2202
Bangladesh
2202 (Fax)

Mohammad Mahfujul Haque

Department of Aquaculture, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh ( email )

Department of Aquaculture
Bangladesh Agricultural University
Mymensingh, 2202
Bangladesh

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