A group of biology students from the university identified 1,101 pieces of plastic in the digestive tract of 30 sardines.
  -  A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -

Published Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Disposable face masks could cause
environmental damage, say specialists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The environmental impact of mandatory daily mask use, especially disposable masks, could end up coming at a high cost causing a major blow to the environment, specialists from the University of Costa Rica said.

Several analyses by the World Health Organization, WHO, prove that wearing face masks is necessary for reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. But the environmental cost of the waste of a disposable mask, according to Christian Alpízar-Herrera, professor of environmental management at the National Institute of Learning, is the slow degradation process of the microplastics contained in expendable masks.

“Disposable masks are partially made of polyethylene, which are two types of plastic resins. Having plastic can happen in two things. The first is the mask can be ingested by marine fauna. The second is while it is degrading, it produces microplastics, small plastic particles, which can enter the food chain of living beings and affect human health ,” Alpízar said.

In the 2017 report, the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, reported that microplastics contain harmful additives; that is, a mixture of chemicals added during manufacturing that can affect the environment.

The specialist pointed out the quotidian presence of microplastics, such as in the aquatic environment and the existence of cases in which the marine fauna presented the consumption of this waste.

According to specialists, in 2019, a group of biology students from the university identified 1,101 pieces of plastic in the digestive tract of 30 analyzed fish of the Opisthonema species, or sardines. This small fish is used both for human consumption and as bait for larger fish.

To avoid damaging the environment, good waste management must be practiced, in addition to ensuring the use of reusable fabric masks that can be washed and disinfected, this way avoiding the use of disposable masks, the specialists said.

According to health authorities, it is recommended that people wear masks in public areas, while using public transportation, and places where many people are gathering. Face masks help prevent those with covid-19 from spreading the virus to others.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported a continuous increase in new cases of infected people as well as deaths caused by the virus. The following are the statistics provided by the ministry:

979 new covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 44,123 active cases.

18,214 foreign-born people have been infected with a total of 118,566 cases since March, approximately 15.3% of the total cases. Of these, authorities confirmed the death of 32 foreign-born patients.

• 492 patients are being treated in public hospitals, where 198 patients are in ICU’s in delicate health conditions (ages range from a 1-year-old to a 93-year-old). And 294 patients are in recovery rooms. Many of the remaining infected patients are quarantined in their homes.

• 72,941 coronavirus patients have fully recovered, which is a 61.5% recovery rate of the total cases since March.

1,502 deaths of people infected with covid-19, approximately 1.3% death rate of the total cases since March. Of these 568 women and 934 men. The ages range from a 9-year-old to a 101-year-old person.

Since October authorities stopped  providing the number of people who have been ruled out and the number of medical covid-19 tests that have been made.

Readers can see the updated number of total patients in each district at the National Distance Education University on its Covid-19 Map.

According to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, CSSE, at Johns Hopkins University, the pandemic has killed 1,270,068 people worldwide.

Should authorities ban the use of disposable face masks?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com


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