People are dumping personal protective equipment (PPE) on the streets, posing a health hazard to the public and to the environment at large.
The problem is becoming so severe that health agencies have issued advisories against throwing masks and gloves away in public places. The Swampscott Police Department in Massachusetts, for example, is now fining people up to $5,000 if they litter.
"We need to contain the spread of COVID-19 and do the right lawful thing by throwing these items in the trash," the department said in a warning to its residents, according to CNN. "Please stop littering, this is making more work and worry for the people having to pick up this trash."
Experts agree this is also a growing environmental hazard. Since most of this trash is plastic, when it gets discarded into the environment, it saturates the sewer systems and other water bodies before breaking down into microplastics that attract pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Marine animals then consume the microplastics, along with the chemicals.
But do not recycle masks and gloves, say experts. "Masks and gloves do not belong in recycling," Mark Benson, a Louisiana State University professor who specializes in microplastic pollution, tells CNN. These items are contaminated, he says. Carry a small plastic bag with you to contain used PPE products until you reach a trash container.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a handy guide on the safe removal and proper disposal of PPE equipment. Since Wednesday is Earth Day, it's a good time to stem the tide of this hazardous habit.
© 2021 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.