PPE pollution on the rise, endangering wildlife and environment




Two new studies are warning that the proliferation of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), is having an adverse impact on the environment and wildlife.

The first study, published in the journal Animal Biology in March, gave an overview of PPE’s direct impact on animals trapped or entangled by the waste.

“We signal COVID-19 litter as a new threat to animal life as the materials designed to keep us safe are actually harming animals around us,” the study authors write.

The second study from charity Ocean Conservancy, which emphasized on the scope of PPE pollution on the environment, found that volunteers with the organization’s International Coastal Cleanup had collected over 100,000 pieces of PPE items from coasts and waterways in the last six months of 2020.

According to Ocean Conservancy, 94% of volunteers surveyed about their experience on the nonprofit’s Clean Swell mobile app reported seeing PPE at a clean-up while 40% found between five or more items. The survey said volunteers collected over 107,219 pieces of PPE in 70 of the 115 participating countries.

PPE waste risks adding to the amount of microplastic fibers going into the environment. It is estimated that between 15 to 51 trillion particles of microplastic have been floating across the world's ocean since 2014. Scientists don't know the impact of microplastics, but know the waste is being ingested by plankton, fish larvae, scallops and oysters.

Animal Biology’s report examined the depth of how PPE waste makes its way into animal habitats. The organization documented a number of instances of animals finding themselves tangled in face masks, including a fox in the UK, a pufferfish in Florida and two crabs in France.

Activists are calling for more action to be taken to curb the issue. Some conservationists have suggested people use reusable PPE if they are able.

More activists are also pushing for the use of crowdsourcing website calledcovidlitter.comto gather more observations and information on the impact PPE have on animals.

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