The Curse and Cost of COVID-19 Face Masks

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The Curse and Cost of COVID-19 Face Masks

COVID-19 continues is violent attacks on the entire world this time around targeting the human environment with pollution caused by face masks. Apart from the impacts of the disease in human body, it has now be found face masks releases chemical pollutants such as lead, antimony and cadmium which can be toxic even in low doses and may be dangerous to public health and aquatic life, says a report by a team of Swansea University researchers in the UK.

Dr Geraint Sullivan

Everywhere one turns, hundreds of used face masks litter the dump sites, roadside bushes and any available spaces. This has made one of the major causes of environmental polluters after disposed bottles. It is believed that an estimated 3.4 billion single-use face masks are being discarded daily across the world as a result of the CoVID-19 pandemic. This is said to be exacerbating the levels of plastic waste to “unmanageable levels”.

Ahead of the annual International Coastal Clean-Up Day today, Wessa (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) chief executive officer, Dr. Andrew Baxter, who has just taken over the reins, said on Thursday that the pandemic had caused a major setback in efforts to reduce the volume of plastic waste accumulating in rivers and oceans around the world.

This point was also corroborated by Dr Sarper Sarp of Swansea University’s College of Engineering who noted that efforts were in top gear to the use of plastics straws and packaging before the pandemic.

Dr Sarp is worried that the environment is under attack thanks to COVID-19 face masks. Hence, there is need to take steps to protect the environment and public health in the face of the new challenge posed by the bye-products of the pandemic.

Besides being a cause of pollution to the environment, face masks pose worse danger to human health outside of the human body as expert believe that it could be leaching chemical pollutants heavy metals and nano-plastics into the environment. According to some Swansea University researchers, heavy metals and plastics fibres were released when throw away masks were submerged in water. The pollutants are said to be coming from dyes used in producing masks in China and parts of Asia. Apart from human health, scientists said that throw-away masks could end up killing whales.

As a result of this, scientists are advocating for a better regulation and more research to be conducted.


"Covid: Disposable masks pose pollutants risk, study finds - BBC News"

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