Do phthalates in face masks pose health hazards with increased usage during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Do phthalates in face masks pose health hazards with increased usage during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In a current examine revealed within the Journal of Hazardous Supplies, researchers investigated the presence of phthalic acid esters (PAEs) or phthalates in commercially accessible face masks to evaluate the well being dangers related to the elevated use of face masks in the course of the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Study: “Determination and risk assessment of phthalates in face masks. An Italian study”. Image Credit: bohemama/Shutterstock
Research: “Willpower and threat evaluation of phthalates in face masks. An Italian examine”. Picture Credit score: bohemama/Shutterstock


One of many strongly advisable COVID-19 mitigation measures was utilizing face masks to restrict the airborne transmission of extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) via aerosolized droplets.

The generally used facemasks have been surgical masks, non-surgical masks, and filtering facepiece respirators (FFP). Surgical or medical masks include non-woven material layers and are thought-about medical gadgets within the European Union (EU). Filtering facepiece respirators consist of 4 or 5 layers and are extra environment friendly at chopping down aerosols, mud, and airborne particulate matter comparable to viruses.

The layers of all these face masks are made utilizing polypropylene, polyester, polycarbonate, polystyrene, or polyethylene, all of which include hazardous chemical substances comparable to phthalates which might be used to enhance the pliability of the fabric.

Phthalates have been related to endocrine disruption and doubtlessly carcinogenic results and are topic to strict rules. The EU has banned using some phthalates in cosmetics, and using most PAEs is permitted solely with particular authorization. Contemplating the numerous enhance in using facemasks with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to find out the dangers related to their extended use.

Concerning the examine

Within the current examine, the researchers assessed the concentrations of 11 PAEs in 35 commercially accessible face masks in Italy utilizing a fuel chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) methodology developed on this examine. The chance evaluation primarily based on the GC/MS outcomes included the carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic well being implications.

Of the 35 evaluated masks, 31% have been FFP2 masks with 4 or 5 layers, 63% have been three-layer surgical masks, and 6% have been non-surgical three-layered masks. The masks included within the examine comprised 24 grownup masks and 11 masks for kids and have been made in Italy (54%), China (40%), and Turkey (6%).

The hazard quotient (HQ) was calculated to estimate the non-carcinogenic threat of phthalate publicity, and the hazard index (HI) was used to grasp cumulative non-carcinogenic dangers. Derived no-effect ranges (DNELs) have been calculated from no noticed adversarial impact ranges (NOAELs) or lowest noticed adversarial impact ranges (LOAELs). They have been correlated to publicity to evaluate the chance to human well being. Threat characterization ratios (RCRs) have been used to evaluate the carcinogenic dangers of phthalate publicity, and derived minimal impact ranges (DMELs) have been calculated.

For a refined publicity evaluation, the Arthur D. Little Polymer Migration Estimation Mannequin (AMEM 2.1 mannequin) was used to estimate the fraction of the particular chemical being launched from or unfold via a polymer.


The outcomes from the GC/MS analysis indicated that 4 phthalates — dibutyl phthalate (DBP), bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) — have been detected in all of the face masks that have been examined, in concentrations between 23.6 mg/kg and 54.three mg/kg. The opposite phthalates have been beneath the restrict of detection (LoD) values.

The publicity doses for the 4 detected phthalates ranged between 6.43 x 10-5 mg/kg physique weight/day and 1.43 x 10-2 mg/kg of physique weight/day. The contribution of DEHP to the whole phthalate publicity values was the very best (74.32%), whereas that of DIBP was 22.15%, and DBP (2.40%) and BBP (1.12%) had a lot decrease contributions.

The median HI values of phthalate exposures for adults and youngsters weren’t larger than the tolerable ranges and indicated no non-carcinogenic adversarial results. Nonetheless, for seven of the 35 face masks, the cumulative RCR values for carcinogenic results have been between 9.34 x 10-2 to 1.55 for adults and 1.1 x 10-1 and 5.28, a lot larger than the 1 x 10-6 tolerable restrict.


To summarize, the examine evaluated the presence of phthalates in non-woven material layers of 35 commercially discovered face masks and located that 4 phthalates, DEHP, DIBP, DBP, and BBP, have been present in all of the face masks at concentrations a lot above the restrict of detection.

Whereas the phthalate publicity values didn’t point out the chance of non-carcinogenic detrimental results, 20% of the face masks confirmed cumulative RCR values exceeding the tolerable limits for carcinogenic well being dangers.

General, the outcomes indicated that whereas the potential carcinogenic dangers of face masks must be investigated additional, many of the analyzed face masks have been thought-about protected to be used.

Journal reference:

Leoni, C., Majorani, C., Cresti, R., Marcello, I., Berardi, E., Fava, L., Attias, L., and D’Ilio, S. (2022). Willpower and threat evaluation of phthalates in face masks. An Italian examine. Journal of Hazardous Supplies. doi:

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