PPE Polution


Masks and PPE are used every day by people around the world by limiting the spread of COVID 19. 129 billion masks and 65 million rubber gloves are being used monthly. These end up in the ocean affecting wildlife but masks also include harmful toxins that will also affect humans. The vaccine will help limit as many masks entering the oceans but these microplastics and PPE will forever be in the ocean.

Swansea University has found startling research about masks and water. They have found that any type of mask, it is disposable or plastic releases harmful pollutants like lead, copper, and antimony. Scientists from the university submerged the masks in water and found they easily released pollutants in the water. This issue could become a huge problem for public safety because kids and pretty much everyone around the world are wearing masks. In addition, the masks are bioaccumulative which means they won’t just wash away the buildup. These pollutants are also micro and nano-size so you can’t just see them which is very scary because the pollutants have been linked to cancer, cell death, and genotoxicity. Research is ongoing but the government and every country needs to establish strict rules so this won’t turn into a big problem. 

As we have seen with other plastic and trash that ends up in the ocean and in nature, the masks not only release pollutants, but are ingested by animals and wildlife, and entangle and trap both marine creatures and land animals. These masks are going to have a similar effect to single-use plastics, and are going to start building up and we will start to see the significant impact the disposal of these masks really has. You can do some things to diminish the effect of waste from single-use masks to use reusable, or fabric masks. These masks can be washed, are more supportive, and for some more fashionable or lowkey. You can also cut the straps of your face mask before disposing of it, sort of like cutting up plastic soda rings. This will help reduce the probability of an animal being caught or strangled by the straps of the mask after it’s disposed of. The effect of these masks on the environment has already been significant, and with the mask mandates being lifted nationwide and vaccinations being administered, hopefully, the waste from these masks will diminish significantly. 

In conclusion, masks are a big pollutant now, whether polluting our water supply or harming precious sea life. They contain lead and copper, which are incredibly small in size, and are building up in huge numbers. Hopefully, the vaccine rollout should limit the number of masks being littered.