These personal protective equipment (PPE) pose a direct threat to wildlife that entangles, swallows it or incorporates it into their nests.
Researchers at Dalhousie University who are investigating the extent of the problem used social media platforms to see if they could be a tool for collecting biologically relevant citizen science data and tracking rapidly emerging environmental challenges. can use them as.
In a paper published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the team recorded 114 incidents of animals being affected by PPE debris in 23 countries from April 2020 to December 2021.
A significant majority of those encounters – 83 percent – involved birds, while less affected mammals, invertebrates, fish and sea turtles. About 42 percent were entangled, while 40 percent showed animals using debris in their nests.
“Extensive use and inadequate infrastructure, coupled with improper waste management, have created an emerging category of litter,” said Justin Ammandolia, Faculty of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies at the university.
“With their widespread presence in the environment, such objects pose a direct threat to wildlife because animals can interact with them in many ways,” Emmendolia said.
Soon after the WHO declared a pandemic, reports of litter items related to the pandemic began to emerge in several countries, including Canada, the US and Germany.
Data from the citizen science mobile application Literati showed that from March to October, 2020, the UK had the highest proportion of facemasks, gloves and disposable wet wipes among countries for which data was available.
While Australia saw the lowest proportion of pandemic-related debris, it was estimated that the national lockdown resulted in reduced outdoor traffic affecting the presence of debris.
Similarly, a relationship between stricter lockdowns and a reduction in road debris was observed in South Africa, where the load of litter on the road tripled during the lockdown period.
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