The study that came out in “Environmental Science and Technology” found that not only has this led to widespread environmental contamination, it poses a significant public health risk as this waste serves as a vector for the virus.
STAR/File
‘World using 129 billion disposable masks, 65 billion gloves monthly’
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A study published in an environmental and scientific journal said the world is using an estimated 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion disposable gloves monthly during the pandemic, environment group Greenpeace said.

The study that came out in “Environmental Science and Technology” found that not only has this led to widespread environmental contamination, it poses a significant public health risk as this waste serves as a vector for the virus.

“This poses a risk to public health, as waste is a vector for SARS-CoV-2 virus which survives up to three days on plastics, and there are also broad impacts to ecosystems and organisms,” the study said,

Greenpeace also pointed out that Metro Manila alone is poised to produce an additional 280 metric tons of infectious waste a day, equating to 16,800 tons in 60 days.

The group expressed their belief that a bulk of this can be avoided with reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) and urged the government to promote reusable PPEs for non-medical use and to boost information dissemination on the safety of reusables to counter supply shortages while still protecting Filipinos from environmental and health harms of PPE-related waste.

Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma called on the government to take decisive steps to create a better normal with real solutions that do not pose a threat to Filipinos and the environment.

“Coming after President Duterte’s SONA, where he expressed his wish to see concerted efforts in protecting the environment for the rest of his term, it is imperative that the government act to curb the rise of PPE-related waste. Protecting the environment, public health and the Filipinos’ well being, including ensuring public participation in decision-making, should be cornerstones of our recovery plans,” Ledesma said.

Health experts from around the world, including Geminn Louis Apostol, professor and lead environmental health specialist of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health at Ateneo de Manila University, also encouraged the public to practice basic hygiene practices like handwashing and to utilize reusable masks, while leaving medical-grade PPEs for healthcare and essential workers.

“While ensuring adequate access to PPE is paramount, the pandemic has exposed how both the medical and nonmedical community have an unnecessary and dangerous reliance on disposable, single-use materials. Widespread use of single-use PPE has resulted in enormous quantities entering waste management streams, contaminating both public spaces and natural environments and creating additional threats to public health and safety,” Apostol said

He added, “Inequitable access to PPE and to information about how to stay safe has contributed to the disproportionate rates of infection in poor and minority communities. If medical masks are prioritized for healthcare workers, the general public can use cloth masks as a safe, cost-effective alternative.”

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