Billions Of Wrongly Disposed Face Masks And Other Personal Protective Equipment Found To Seriously Pollute Oceans And Rivers

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Billions Of Wrongly Disposed Face Masks And Other Personal Protective Equipment Found To Seriously Pollute Oceans And Rivers

One of the few positives to come from the ongoing CoVid-19 pandemic was the news that wildlife was being given a chance to thrive. With a vast reduction in traffic, fewer people being outside their homes, and the use of cars and airplanes significantly reduced, many species took the opportunity to reclaim the land. Pictures and videos from around the world showed animals thriving in places where they were rarely seen before, along with a clear drop in CO2 emissions.

One negative environmental effect has nevertheless been seriously overlooked. Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE, is used to protect people from CoVid-19 infection and ranges from simple masks to full body suits used in high-risk places such as hospitals. Much of this PPE is non-biodegradable and is composed of various forms of plastic.

According to a study published in the Environment, Science & Technology journal, 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are being used on a monthly basis, much of which is not properly disposed of. This has resulted in widespread plastic pollution of rivers and oceans which, in turn, can cause significant damage to aqualife populations that ingest the plastic or become trapped within it.


If just 1% of these face masks are wrongly disposed, it will lead to over 1 billion masks polluting the environment every month.


Emily Stevenson, a marine biologist, who works in England on projects cleaning up the environment from plastic pollution told the Independent:

"We've already found evidence of PPE actually sinking below the ocean surface. This means that there could be a totally unaccounted for concentration of PPE pollution on the seafloor, which can remain as dormant debris for centuries."

She added:

"Once on the seafloor, it smothers any biological structures such as important Sea Fan beds in the UK, or coral reefs further afield. Also, this debris entails a 'plasticizing' effect when on the seafloor – potentially inhibiting gas exchange between the water column and sediment. This has been the first time I have been legitimately frightened by PPE pollution. To see it in the water, in the environment that holds my heart and my passion. To see it at home, on my doorstep. It hit me very hard."


While some are pessimistic, she believes that the unity shown over CoVid-19 can also apply to the environment and that with a little focus, we can all play our part in fighting the PPE plastic scourge.

"If we continue with the same global collaboration, we can resolve this. PPE is in all of our lives; we use it or see it every day. But it is for this very reason that we can all do something about it. It is those daily, individual, small steps that happen on a global scale that is going to be our greatest ally in this fight against plastic."

All citizens should be aware that cloth reusable masks are available and offer a useful replacement for plastic-disposable masks in non-medical settings.

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Thinking Humanity: Billions Of Wrongly Disposed Face Masks And Other Personal Protective Equipment Found To Seriously Pollute Oceans And Rivers
Billions Of Wrongly Disposed Face Masks And Other Personal Protective Equipment Found To Seriously Pollute Oceans And Rivers
One of the few positives to come from the ongoing CoVid-19 pandemic was the news that wildlife was being given a chance to thrive. With a vast reduction in traffic, fewer people being outside their homes, and the use of cars and airplanes significantly reduced, many species took the opportunity to reclaim the land. Pictures and videos from around the world showed animals thriving in places where they were rarely seen before, along with a clear drop in CO2 emissions. One negative environmental effect has nevertheless been seriously overlooked. Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE, is used to protect people from CoVid-19 infection and ranges from simple masks to full body suits used in high-risk places such as hospitals.
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