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Face masks and gloves found in 7 major European rivers

Single-use face masks and gloves used as protection from the coronavirus have been found on the shores and in the waters of major European rivers.

With the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic starting from February, the use of face masks and single-use gloves has increased exponentially. Scientists at the Tara Foundation, which studies climate change‘s impact on the oceans, have found these now ubiquitous objects – heavily deteriorated and polluting – abandoned on the shores and in the waters of seven European rivers.

Face masks and gloves may have reached the sea

During the month of June “we found face masks and gloves along the course of seven major European rivers and now we’re worried about the future,” Tara spokesperson Romy Hentinger told French radio France Inter, highlighting that single-use masks are made from polypropene and are very thin, therefore deteriorate easily and aren’t biodegradable. “This is worrying. We can only assume that other (masks and gloves, ed.) have reached the sea,” she added.

gloves litter the environment
Masks and gloves may have reached the sea © Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Microplastics found in all samples

The Tara Foundation recently concluded a study on nine of Europe’s principal rivers (Thames, Elbe, Rhine, Seine, Ebro, Rhône, Tiber, Garonne and Loire) to measure the concentration of microplastics. The expedition was carried out between May and November 2019 and found these components in 100 per cent of the samples collected, evidence of the fact that the particles separate before reaching the sea, and therefore don’t deteriorate completely due to the action of UV rays and saline water, as previously thought. “Now we’re waiting for the final results from the experts who are still analysing the samples,” Hentinger concluded.

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