Impact of COVID-19 on environment and steps needed to protect it

By Dr Hirenappa Udnur

Mysuru, June 6:- When we think about saving our environment and issues related to it, the first concern that comes to our mind is plastic, air and water pollution. But from past few months, since the time we all have been living with the fear of the coronavirus and quarantined ourselves to our homes, the planet earth has actually recovered from the damages that we caused.

The air has less pollution when compared to the previous pollution index. There has been a reduction in water, land contamination. This mass isolation of us has resulted in the betterment of climate change. However, our prime concern now has become the disposal of safety gear, face masks and gloves that is being used by us to protect ourselves from the deadly virus.

In the process of fighting against coronavirus, we have broken a lot of routines and habits, just to be safe and healthy. But the real matter which requires our attention is about the things used to protect us can also cause and spread the disease faster and can also affect our environment in multiple ways.

Face masks are mainly made of non-woven fabrics like polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethene or polyester. These poly-products keep out the bacteria effectively. As the masks are plastic-based, these are liquid-resistant, have a long afterlife, later to their disposal they end up in landfills or oceans.

Given the fact that surgical masks are only for one-time use, their disposal along with tissues, empty sanitiser bottles and gloves are the massive medical waste, whose disposal has to be rightly done. This medical debris is not only filling up the city disposal lands, but it’s now being found in water bodies and in natural wildlife habitats.

When used masks are not disposed of properly, the virus gets exposed leading to the spread of the disease. And a certain portion of the population which directly deals with the medical waste, like garbage collectors, will be exposed to the disease directly.

The only way to put a tab on this issue is to adopt a few environment-friendly measures. That will not keep us, humans protected but the environment too.

It is very important for us to control this condition at this moment. Take all the precautions and measures that will keep you safe and the environment too! Let’s take the responsibility of the wastes we produce as the general public. Let’s keep ourselves and the environment healthy and tidy.

Dos & don’ts

* Always dispose of your used surgical masks, gloves, tissues and empty sanitizer bottles in closed bins

* Use reusable mask instead of disposable mask

*  Use separate bins for disposal

* Do not litter the used safety gears in public spaces

* Do not mix safety gear with common garbage bin

* Avoid using a mask made out of polypropylene which does not decompose easily.

(The writer is a Pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital)

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