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Covid-19 waste killing animals around the world


An image of a bird tangled in a face mask has been shared by scientists, who warn that measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 are 'killing animals around the world'.

A team from Leiden University described the waste from masks, gloves and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a 'ticking plastic time bomb' that may already be going off in some parts of the world.

They investigated the scale of the problem after discovering a perch caught inside a latex glove that had been used during the pandemic.

The team found foxes and birds tangled in face masks, a mask in the stomach of a penguin and even birds nests made from the plastic pollution. 

To better understand the scale of the problem study authors set out to discover how often, and where animals were interacting with Covid waste. 

They used a combination of social media, websites and local newspaper reports from Brazil to Malaysia to track the spread of the plastic waste. 

They spotted incidents of foxes in the UK and birds in Canada entangled in face masks, as well as hedgehogs, seagulls and crabs trapped by PPE.

Researchers also noticed evidence of animals actually eating the plastic waste, with one case of a penguin having one inside its stomach.

They warn that pets, especially dogs, are also at risk from PPE-related plastic waste.

Study authors found evidence of a coot's nest in the Netherlands that had been made using face masks and gloves that had not ben disposed of properly. 

'Animals become weakened due to becoming entangled or starve due to the plastic in their stomach,' said study author Liselotte Rambonnet.

The diversity of animals influenced by corona waste is considerable, the team explained, adding the problem stretches across the animal kingdom.