Discarded coronavirus face masks and gloves rising threat to ocean life, conservationists warn



The rise in disposable face masks and gloves being used to prevent the spread of coronavirus is adding to the glut of plastic pollution threatening the health of oceans and marine life, environmentalists warn.

The Ocean Conservancy discovered that many fish species consume plastics debris, confusing it for real food and estimated that at least 600 different wildlife species are threatened by the pollution.

There is also a human health risk from plastic entering the food chain with nearly a billion people around the world consuming seafood as their primary source of protein.

Not only is there a potential health risk of dropping used masks and gloves during the pandemic but many contain materials that do not recycle and are not biodegradable. Surgical masks are made using non-woven fabrics including plastics like polypropylene.

Used masks and gloves add to an already significant problem: At least 8m tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, making up 80 per cent of all marine debris, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The bright colours of latex gloves can be mistaken as food by seabirds, turtles and other marine mammals putting them at risk of severe injuries and death.


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