Lifetime prediction of non-woven face masks in ocean and contributions to microplastics and dissolved organic carbon

Chunzhao Chen, Gang Yu, Bin Wang, Fei Li, Huijuan Liu, Wen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study explored the degradation behavior of three types of disposable face masks in simulated seawater via the accelerated aging experiments. Microplastics (MPs) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were monitored in UV- and thermal-treated mask suspensions and their concentrations increased slowly in the early stage at 50 ℃ and 58 ℃. Owing to the high energy supply, the release rates of MPs and DOC at 76 ℃ were much faster than the above two temperatures. The time-temperature superposition principle (TTSP) was used to superpose the MPs/DOC release kinetics from other tested temperatures to the reference temperature and its applicability was verified by the similar activation energy. Then, a release kinetics model was established and fitted well with the superposed MP data (R2 ≥ 0.96). Since less than 0.1 % of carbon was leached, the superposed DOC data was roughly modelled by the exponential function (R2 ≥ 0.90). According to the TTSP and the established kinetics models, about 15 years were estimated to decompose half of a certain marine mask waste, together with leaching 0.21 ± 0.02 mg∙g-mask−1 of DOC. If mask consumption remains the same before 2025, they would contribute 40000–230000 tonnes of MPs and 13–97 tonnes of DOC to the ocean by 2040.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129816
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Jan 5 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • COVID-19
  • Degradation
  • Face mask
  • Marine pollution
  • Release modelling


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