Disposable face masks are being dumped into the oceans, potentially releasing harmful microplastics into the atmosphere and our food.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of San Francisco enforcing the first face mask law in the United States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all states have mandated the use of masks. By October, 93 percent of Americans said they wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance themselves.

“Humanity is going through 129 billion face masks a month, which works out to three million a minute,” according to Big Think.

With large populations of the world using masks regularly as a health precaution against coronavirus, it has had an unintended consequence – pollution.

The Ocean Conservancy released new data detailing how personal protective equipment has polluted beaches and oceans all over the planet. Volunteers who were cleaning beaches all over the world tracked the number of PPE they found on the shore. From late July until December 2020, volunteers collected 107,219 items of personal protective equipment from beaches and waterways worldwide.

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