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The neglected effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

How the ongoing worldwide pandemic has brought us more than just a virus.

By now, it is safe to say that most of, if not all of us have felt and dealt with the effects of the global pandemic; from stress, the virus itself, and even the loss of family members and friends. All these consequences are detrimental to humans, and although we have adapted nicely to the situation, we all constantly wish everything went back to normal. However, while it is a human tendency to adapt, when we do so, we can expect there to be a spike in something else: pollution. This is, of course, obvious; what isn’t there to expect when billions of people worldwide are using masks every day? They’ve got to go somewhere, right? Unfortunately, human waste goes to all the wrong places.

It’s easy to forget that masks and other single-use protective equipment are made of plastic, and by now it is common knowledge that it takes quite a while to decompose. In countries like the UK, the greatest amalgamations of used face-masks were found in shores and shallow ocean areas (an estimated 194 billion units), but could also be observed by scuba divers in their respective diving areas. Experts predict that the effect these masks might have on the aquatic environment can be as detrimental as other plastic products’. However, there has been no documented evidence or studies conducted on how this kind of waste can possibly transmit the disease.

What’s not easy, in turn, is telling people to simply stop wearing disposable masks. They’ve been a deciding factor in the progression of the pandemic, slowing the spread of disease worldwide due to its availability and practicality. However, by this point, the pandemic should’ve generally slowed down its unfolding with the emergence of new vaccines and better treatments and prevention methods. To solve the current pandemic-induced pollution problem, it is highly recommended that governments and pharmaceutical companies start promoting the usage of reusable masks that are as effective as regular masks. Luckily, we see this idea becoming more and more popular recently, and hopefully this, along with the eventual closure of the pandemic, will bring a halt to this relatively novel phenomenon.


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