Widespread occurrence of phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers in single-use facemasks collected in the United States.
Single-use or disposable facemasks have been widely used by the public for personal protection against the spread of COVID-19. The majority of disposable facemasks are made of synthetic polymers such as polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate (as polyester), and polystyrene, and could therefore be a source of human exposure to plasticizers that are incorporated into these polymers during production. Little is known, however, about the occurrence of plasticizers in facemasks. In this study, we determined the concentrations of nine phthalate diesters and six non-phthalate plasticizers in 66 facemasks purchased in the United States. Among phthalate diesters, dibutyl phthalate, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, di-iso-butyl phthalate, and butyl benzyl phthalate were found in all facemask samples, at median concentrations of 486, 397, 254, and 92 ng/g, respectively. Among non-phthalate plasticizers, dibutyl sebacate (median: 3390 ng/g) and di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate (352 ng/g) were found at notable concentrations. Inhalation exposure to select phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers from the use of facemasks was estimated to range from 0.1 to 3.1 and 3.5 to 151 ng/kg-bw/d, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first study to report the occurrence of phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers in facemasks collected from the United States.