General, Research, Technology

3 million medical masks are thrown away every minute. What will happen to nature?

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 atour site has published an article that medical masks and gloves in the future can cause severe harm to nature. We have calculated that Russians will throw away about 115 million pairs of protective equipment every day and spend 46 billion rubles on them every month. Then few people believed in the harm of masks and gloves, but now all the garbage cans of every city and even small settlements are filled with them. Our prediction turned out to be correct - scientists officially recognized that the mask mode is harmful to nature. According to their calculations, every minute (!) 3 million medical masks are thrown out in the world, which are made of materials hazardous to the environment. Researchers believe that as many people as possible should be aware of the potential environmental threat, and this problem needs to be addressed somehow. They offered several options.

This is a set of masks that were caught in the waters of Hong Kong.

How many medical masks are thrown into nature?

Alarming results of the conducted studywere published in the scientific journal Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering. According to the authors of the work, about 129 billion face masks are thrown away every month in the world. Environmentalists recalled that most of these protective products are disposable plastic products that cannot decompose in the soil for thousands of years. However, they easily break down into tiny plastic particles, which also harm nature and all living organisms.

Soon the snow will melt in Russia and we will see how they littered with medical masks

Companies are believed to produce every month43 billion disposable masks each. The pace of production can be compared to the production of plastic bottles, which are filled with carbonated drinks and other liquids. However, about 25% of discarded bottles are recycled and reused - this is at least some kind of concern for the environment. But until now, no one has seriously thought about the processing of medical masks. And this despite the fact that they are now at every step. While walking, notice that the masks lie in heaps even on the ground.

The harm of medical masks

Scientists believe that if not disposed ofmedical masks in a special way, over time they will become another reason for the pollution of our planet. However, they may already be the main trash - just scientists do not yet have proof of this. While in nature, masks begin to disintegrate and turn into small 5mm particles. Over time, they turn into nanoplastics less than 1 micrometer, which easily penetrates the organisms of living organisms and accumulates in large quantities.

The World Health Organization believes microplastics are healthy. But this has not yet been proven in long-term studies.

In short, then medical masks produce microplastics faster and in greater quantities than plastic bottles and bags. And we have to do something about it.

The researchers also noted that medicalMasks also release hazardous elements such as bisphenol A and heavy metals into nature. Bisphenol is thought to be absorbed quickly by human skin and trigger health problems. It is especially harmful for children - there is an assumption that the substance has a bad effect on the development of the fetus in the womb. And the accumulation of heavy metals in the body can lead to metabolic disorders and the emergence of mutations.

See also: What terrible will happen if you do not change the medical mask for a long time?

How to save nature?

The authors of the scientific work proposed four ways to protect nature from the effects of disposable masks:

  • installation of special trash cans where only masks can be thrown out. Thus, they can be disposed of separately, without harm to the environment;
  • development of rules for handling used masks. They are needed to teach people not to throw away protective equipment anywhere;
  • replacement of disposable masks with reusable ones. Scientists have already proven that homemade fabric masks also protect well from infection - our website even has instructions for making them;
  • development of biodegradable masks. This idea a year ago was already proposed by the creator of Mikhail Korolev in the material that I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

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Medical masks and gloves are harmful to nature - this isfact. However, one cannot do without them today and it is very important to wear them. And the point is not only that a person thereby protects himself from the virus. More importantly, by wearing a mask, he takes care of the health of other people. In order not to harm nature, at the moment you can completely switch to reusable masks made of fabric. You can make or buy yourself 2-3 pieces, change them during the day and in the evening to throw them into the wash. And economically and with care for nature.