by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
Health Editor’s Note: So with the multitudes of people using masks and protective gloves to prevent spreading and contracting COVID-19, there is the inevitable result of these items being discarded in a disorderly fashion. Personally, I have seem more than several masks carelessly discarded as they lay on the ground. Obviously these items are contaminated when they are discarded and should be placed into a trash container. The fact that these items would be contaminated with bacteria and virus and them carelessly thrown to the ground by their previous wearer keeps me from wanting to pick them up and place them into the trash. I have been known to pick up liter but have an issue with these items. Masks are becoming a medium for increasing pollution. Carelessly discarded masks are killing wildlife who become entangled or ingest the mask materials. For an additional safety measure, cut the straps on the masks and cut up disposable gloves to help to keep our wildlife safe. Thanks!….Carol
When the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold and mask mandates were put in place, some researchers predicted an “environmental disaster” that could “last generations.” Improperly discarded single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as disposable masks and latex gloves, could harm wildlife and exacerbate plastic pollution, Marie Fazio reported for the New York Times last summer.
In their paper, the scientists described various instances during which animals died after ingesting or becoming entangled in PPE that was not disposed of properly. For example, a penguin in Brazil swallowed a mask while hedgehogs and foxes in the United Kingdom got tangled in masks as well, reports Damian Carrington for the Guardian. In August 2020, volunteers cleaning up canals in Leiden, Netherlands, came upon a small European perch (Perca fluviatilis) wedged inside of the thumb of a disposable latex glove, reports Jessica Leigh Hester for Atlas Obscura.
Now, researchers have published a new report in the journal Animal Biology that offers a first look into how animals are handling the aftermath of PPE litter, reports Anne Pinto-Rodrigues for Science News.