Environ Technol Innov. 2022 Jul 21:102837. doi: 10.1016/j.eti.2022.102837. Online ahead of print.
The threat of epidemic outbreaks like SARS-CoV-2 is growing owing to the exponential growth of the global population and the continual increase in human mobility. Personal protection against viral infections was enforced using ambient air filters, face masks, and other respiratory protective equipment. Available facemasks feature considerable variation in efficacy, materials usage and characteristic properties. Despite their widespread use and importance, face masks pose major potential threats due to the uncontrolled manufacture and disposal techniques. Improper solid waste management enables viral propagation and increases the volume of associated biomedical waste at an alarming rate. Polymers used in single-use face masks include a spectrum of chemical constituents: plasticizers and flame retardants leading to health-related issues over time. Despite ample research in this field, the efficacy of personal protective equipment and its impact post-disposal is yet to be explored satisfactorily. The following review assimilates information on the different forms of personal protective equipment currently in use. Proper waste management techniques pertaining to such special wastes have also been discussed. The study features a holistic overview of innovations made in face masks and their corresponding impact on human health and environment. Strategies with SDG3 and SDG12, outlining safe and proper disposal of solid waste, have also been discussed. Furthermore, employing the CFD paradigm, a 3D model of a face mask was created based on fluid flow during breathing techniques. Lastly, the review concludes with possible future advancements and promising research avenues in personal protective equipment.