COVID-19: Research unmasks the environmental impact of PPE

15th December, 2021.      //   General Interest, Health, Market Intelligence, pandemics  // 

From the court to the clinic: Nike delivers first shipment of custom PPE to  OHSU | OHSU News

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all areas of life. People, organizations, and governments have tried to adapt behavior to stay safe and minimize the risk of infection. One particular area of focus has been protection — most commonly via the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and gloves. When people use PPE correctly, they can reduce their risk for severe illness or injury. However, it is also critical to consider how PPE impacts the environment.

A recent study in the journal Nature Sustainability found that litter from masks, gloves, and wipes has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The study recommends that policies related to pandemics should incorporate measures to manage PPE waste. This may help reduce the negative environmental impacts from the mismanagement of PPE.

The uses of personal protective equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that PPE can help prevent illness and injury. People will use different types of PPE based on the situation and need for protection.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source helps regulate how manufacturers make PPE to ensure it works correctly. PPE can help prevent infectious materials from getting on a person’s skin, eyes, and nose. When people correctly use PPE, it can help reduce the risk of spreading an illness from one person to another.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source currently recommends that healthcare professionals treating people with COVID-19 wear N-95 masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection such as face shields or goggles.

The CDC also has general recommendations related to mask use by the general public. Currently, it recommends that all people over the age of 2 wear masks in indoor public spaces.

While the CDC’s main focus has been on vaccination, it still promotes activities such as mask-wearing. For example, in a recent Facebook post, the CDC discusses a study demonstrating vaccine effectiveness. The agency advocates the following:

“Protect yourself and your community by becoming fully vaccinated, receiving your booster dose when recommended, and engaging in recommended prevention steps (like wearing masks or physical distancing in indoor public places where spread is high or substantial).”

Other countries have developed similar recommendations regarding masks throughout the pandemic.

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