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Warnings after people begin dumping face masks and gloves on the ground

Councils have seen an increase in littering with medical equipment.

A discarded mask on the ground. Don't do this.
A discarded mask on the ground. Don't do this.
Image: Sait Serkan Gurbuz/PA Images

A NUMBER OF local councils have said there has been an increase in people littering with disposable masks and gloves.

Both Dublin City Council and Waterford City and County Council have said that the dumping of medical equipment has become a problem during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The efficacy of asking people to use of masks and other protective equipment is the subject of some debate, but one of the main arguments against recommending that people use masks is that they can be used incorrectly. 

This includes using disposable masks for several days or touching one’s face to adjust the mask. Both these practices could potentially increase the spread of the coronavirus. 

Concerns have also been raised about the potential for such items to be dumped when people are finished using them. 

In a statement today, Dublin City Council said some areas of the city have seen an increase in the amount of gloves and masks being littered. 

“Our enemy is a virus and as such it is unseen. Our invisible enemy lurks around a lot of corners. We need to be mindful about how we dispose of used latex gloves and masks as they could contain the virus,” Dublin’s Lord Mayor Tom Brabazon said today. 

Doing whatever we can to stop the spread of the virus and thereby save lives is critical and this includes being responsible for the safe disposal of face masks and gloves.

A spokesperson for Waterford City and County Council said similar: “There is evidence of disposable gloves and masks being discarded on the streets instead of being placed in litter bins or the users domestic refuse.”

Tips for using a mask

Echong the advice from the council’s, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that if you choose to wear a mask you must “know how to use it and dispose of it properly”. 

The WHO updated its guidance on the wearing of masks on Tuesday but stopped short of saying everyone should wear one. It argued that, while masks can help prevent the spread of Covid-19, they can also “create a false sense of security” leading to a “neglect of other essential measures”. 

In short, the advice is that even if you decide to wear a mask you should continue to adhere to a strict hand-hygiene regime and to adhere to social distancing regulations.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO)/YouTube

 Here is some other advice from the WHO about correctly using a facemask:

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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