How fast does the face mask land? | Science

The most typical disposable face masks, i.e. blue, surgical face masks, are mainly made of plastic, more specifically polypropylene. Although plastic-eating bacteria are also known around the world, bacteria or other organisms found in Finnish nature do not degrade polypropylene in the same way as biological material.

Although the masks do not land, they still oxidize over time. As they oxidize, they break down into smaller and smaller parts, first into pieces, then into microplastics and further into nanoplastics. Eventually, the plastic will probably end up in waterways and bottom sediments.

However, oxidation is very slow. We do not have definite information on the entire life cycle of surgical masks, but based on the calculations, we can assume that the oxidation of the mask to unrecognizable will last for hundreds of years. I would assume that a mask thrown into the ground may well be recognizable as a mask even 500 years from now.

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This means that if Mikael Agricola had thrown his mask on the banks of the Aura River when taking his Abc book to print, some of the mask could still appear on the ground.

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If Agricola, on the other hand, had thrown a banana peel into the ground, it would have rotted in about a month, and the Descendants could in no way guess that the bishop liked the bananas.

As a defendant
Heikki Setälä,
Professor of Urban Ecosystem Research,
University of Helsinki.

Published in Science Journal 8/2021

Source: Tiede by

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