The “Al Jazeera” website dealt with the issue of protective masks against the “Corona” virus and the environmental danger it poses, and here are the highlights of the report:
Since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic at the beginning of last year 2020; Face masks – and other means of personal protection that are used to prevent the emerging virus – have become an indispensable necessity for humans in general, and for health workers in particular, and with the increasing demand for disposable face masks, N95. ; It has become clear to the public that these masks have huge financial and environmental damages.Does the mask lead to suffocation with carbon dioxide?
It is estimated that the Corona pandemic causes medical waste of no less than 7,299 tons per day, and most of it consists of disposable face masks, even with the decline in the severity of the pandemic in some countries of the world; It is still expected that medical workers will continue to wear these masks for most of their work hours.A recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to investigate the financial and environmental effects of using different types of face masks revealed that it is possible to reduce this cost significantly by using the types of masks that can be worn more than once.
This study demonstrated that sterilizing N95 masks – so that health workers can use them for more than one day – can reduce the environmental and financial damages of these masks by at least 75%, compared to using a new mask when dealing with each patient.
Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that using protections that can be used more than once will not only lead to a significant reduction in expenses, but will also significantly reduce waste.
The study, which was reported in the British Medical Journal Open, concluded that the use of N95 face masks made of silicone may help to further reduce the amount of medical waste. Traverso and his research team are developing such masks, which are not currently available on the market.
In the early stages of the Corona outbreak, there was a shortage of “N95” masks, and medical workers in many hospitals were forced to wear one face mask throughout the day instead of changing the mask when dealing with each patient, and later, some hospitals began using Systems to sterilize masks with hydrogen peroxide vapor, which allowed wearing one mask for several days.
Last year, Traverso and his colleagues began developing reusable “N95” masks made of silicone with an air filter that could be changed or sterilized after use, and these masks were equipped so that they could be sterilized by heat or bleaches in order to be used more than once.
“Our vision was that if we had a system to reuse masks, we could reduce the cost,” Traverso says – in his statements to the SciTechDaily website, which specializes in science and technology. Disposable face masks have a significant impact on the environment; It takes a very long time to degrade.
During the pandemic, the priority is focused on protecting humans from the virus, and of course this issue remains the priority, but in the long run we have to take care of it and do the right thing, and we must think seriously about reducing the negative effects of these masks on the environment.
As part of the study, the research team at the Massachusetts Institute decided to test more than one scenario for the use of face masks during the pandemic, including wearing the “N95” muzzle to deal with each patient individually, wearing one muzzle throughout the day, or reusing the muzzle. After sterilizing with UV rays or hydrogen peroxide, and finally using one surgical mask throughout the day.
The analyzes showed that if every person working in the medical field in the United States used a new face mask of the “N95” type when examining each patient during the first six months of the pandemic; The total number of masks required will reach 7.4 billion masks at a cost of 6.4 billion dollars, and this will result in 84 million kilograms of waste.
In the case of applying the strategy of using reusable face masks more than once, the study team concluded that this will lead to a significant reduction in cost and waste volume, as if every health care worker uses a used “N95” mask after sterilization by ultraviolet radiation. The cost will drop to between 1.4 billion and 1.7 billion dollars within 6 months, with the volume of waste dropping to between 13 and 18 million tons.
Jacqueline Chu – a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital – confirms that “the face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and therefore it is necessary to integrate the sustainability factor into their use and other personal protection methods that exacerbate the problem of medical waste.”
Despite the role of vaccination campaigns in limiting the spread of the Corona virus, Traverso believes that medical staff will likely continue to use face masks in the near future to prevent, not only from the Corona virus, but from other respiratory diseases with influenza.