It is important to note that personal protective equipment (PPE) is made of plastic and isn't recyclable. At the start of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, experts did not consider that disposable face masks, gloves and wipes could become global environmental pollutants.
The researchers scanned social media platforms for photos of wildlife tangled in PPE, such as face masks and disposable gloves. They found 114 incidents in 23 countries from April 2020 to December 2021, with most of the encounters involving birds. The most commonly reported species were mute swan, herring gull, Australian white ibis, red kits, and Eurasian coot. The most common mammal reported was the eastern gray squirrel, followed by the European hedgehog and red fox.
Of all the sightings, nine were found dead in direct contact with PPE.
"It is crucial that we identify opportunities to improve our waste management infrastructure so that we can prevent similar leakages during the inevitable future pandemics," the researchers wrote in their study.
Previous studies conclude that a shocking 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves were used monthly during the pandemic. Due to unsystematic waste management, they end up as junk.
"With a widespread presence in the environment, such items pose a direct threat to wildlife as animals can interact with them in a series of ways," the researchers wrote.
There were 29 animal sightings entangled with PPE in the United States, 16 in England, 13 in Canada, 11 in Australia and 10 in the Netherlands.
"It is necessary to learn from this event, and assess the full impact that plastic waste from the pandemic has had on our global fauna and environment," the researchers suggested.
This research came after a study estimated that more than 25,000 tons of PPE and other types of COVID-related plastic waste have entered Earth's oceans.
As per the study, 8.4 million tons of pandemic-related plastic waste have been generated by 193 countries from the start of the pandemic to August 2021 and 71 percent of them are likely to wash up on beaches by the end of 2021. (Related: COVID also caused pandemic of plastic waste such as FACE MASKS, Aussie environmental group says.)
Apart from being not eco-friendly, face masks are also not helping curb the spread of COVID-19 infection.
In March, children six and older in Catalonia, Spain were required to wear masks once school reopened. A study identified a much lower case rate in preschool where there were no mandates when compared to older groups who were required to wear masks.
According to the researchers, mask mandates in schools "were not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 incidence or transmission, suggesting that this intervention was not effective."
Meanwhile, recent reports said COVID-19 cases in Singapore and New Zealand soared during the latest omicron wave despite their very strict mask mandates. People in both countries were ordered to wear masks everywhere, especially in all indoor public places, such as shopping centers and libraries. Both countries now have higher case numbers per million.
In Brazil, meanwhile, a study back in May proved that not only masks do not help the wearers stay away from COVID-19 infections – they actually increase the risk of getting sick and dying from the infection.
The peer-reviewed study written by Beny Spira, an associate professor at the University of Sao Paulo, and published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science on April 19, described its purpose as "analyzing the correlation between mask usage against morbidity and mortality rates in the 2020-2021 winter in Europe."
"Data from 35 European countries on morbidity, mortality and mask usage during a six-month period were analyzed and crossed," stated the study involving 602 million people.
The findings suggest that countries with high levels of mask compliance did not perform better than those with low mask usage in the six-month period that encompassed the second European wave of COVID-19.
Beyond finding no benefit to masking mandate compliance in curtailing the spread of COVID-19, the paper found a "moderate positive correlation" between the use of masks and COVID-19 deaths.
Visit Environ.news for more news on the harmful effects of plastic PPE on the environment.
Watch the below video that talks about the environmental cost of COVID-19.
This video is from the channel The HighWire with Del Bigtree on Brighteon.com.