Kerala

Checking virus transmission, by clearing used masks

T.P. Shaji collecting used face masks at Mararikulam South grama panchayat on Tuesday.

T.P. Shaji collecting used face masks at Mararikulam South grama panchayat on Tuesday.  

Man traverses roads, collecting and disposing of abandoned masks

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government making wearing of masks mandatory, public places have been littered with used masks. But unsung heroes like

T.P. Shaji, an autorickshaw driver by profession, do their bit to avoid the health risk posed by abandoned masks.

For the past two weeks, Mr. Shaji has been setting out on his motorcycle every morning, wearing gloves and mask and carrying a bottle of hand sanitiser and a plucker, traversing roads and streets in Mannancherry, Aryad and Mararikulam South grama panchayats and nearby areas in search of discarded masks.

Mr. Shaji has so far collected and disposed of more than 1,500 used masks abandoned at public places. He says that after the government made face masks compulsory in public places, roads have been littered with masks, especially disposable ones, posing health and environmental risks.

Around 100 a day

“After the imposition of the lockdown, I have become jobless, unable to operate my autorickshaw. I was happy to join others in the fight against COVID-19. But it is disheartening to see discarded masks in public places, which have the potential for virus transmission. I started collecting used masks after realising the threat they pose to the public. On an average, I dispose of 100 masks a day. Of this, 95% are disposable masks,” says Mr. Shaji, who hails from Pathirappally.

After gathering masks, he takes them to a secluded land and burns them. Mr. Shaji says though burning masks is unscientific, he is forced to resort to it in the absence of a proper mechanism. “The government should do more to create awareness and educate people about the risk involved in dumping masks in public. It should also deploy volunteers to collect used masks and set up measures to dispose of them in a scientific manner,” he says.

‘Cloth masks advisable’

P.S. Shajahan, Additional Professor of Pulmonary Medicine, Government Medical College, Alappuzha, suggested using reusable cloth-based masks. “Masks are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19. But discarding them in the open will result in health and environmental hazards. The best solution to the issue is to use reusable masks,” Dr. Shajahan says.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 10:54:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/checking-virus-transmission-by-clearing-used-masks/article31513423.ece

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