COVID-19 PPE Litter Kills Animals, Report Finds

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) largely used amid the pandemic has resulted in a new wave of litter, killing animals including birds, fishes, and dogs, a recent report has found.

Published in the journal Animal Biology last March 22, the study is the first overview of reported cases of entanglement, entrapment, and ingestion of COVID-19 litter by animals.

According to the report, COVID-19 litter — mainly single-use latex gloves and single-use medical face masks — has emerged as a new deadly threat to wildlife after researchers explored news websites and social media posts from wildlife rescue centers, veterinarians, birdwatchers, and collectors and found several harmful incidents on land and in water across the world.

“The PPE products that are designed to keep us safe are actually harming animals around us,” the researchers of the report wrote.

The researchers discovered that the earliest victim was an American robin entangled with a face mask in Canada last April.

The report also found the first cases of birds using face masks as nesting material.

The researchers also found that pets, mostly dogs, have ingested PPE items.

“Animals become weakened due to becoming entangled, or starve due to the plastic in their stomach,” researcher Liselotte Rambonnet from Leiden University in the Netherlands said.

The researchers warned that the actual number of cases may be much higher and they noted that more research is needed to fully understand the effects of PPE litter to animal life.

The researchers have launched a website where anyone can report their observations of animals being harmed by PPE litter to contribute to the global overview.

“People may suffer from the coronavirus pandemic, but nature is getting sick of our plastic,” the researchers concluded in the report.

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