Protective masks, gloves starting to litter North Texas parking lots

There's a new public health and environmental issue showing up on North Texas streets: Littered protective equipment.

Parking lots and sidewalks are accumulating disposable masks and gloves.

It's been just a few days since Dallas County announced it wanted people to wear face coverings, but even before then, and especially now, people have started tossing disposable masks and gloves on the ground.

As people are still adjusting to the sight of people wearing masks and other face coverings, there is another image becoming common, masks and gloves littered on streets and parking lots.

“Yes, I’ve seen it everywhere. It breaks my heart to see it, to see so many gloves and masks just thrown everywhere, unfortunately,” said Dr. Diana Cervantes.

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Dr. Cervantes is an epidemiologist who led the state's Ebola response. She now teaches at the UNT Health Science Center.

She said it's likely happening because people want to take the masks or gloves off before getting in their cars.

“They're like, ‘Oh, now I’m out of the store, I’m taking this off. I don't want to bring this into my car or my home and bring the contaminants in,’” Dr. Cervantes explained. “There is a potential risk for people who have to pick that up, so if you're going to wear a disposable mask, disposable gloves, put them in a bag, even if it’s just a Ziploc bag. Put that in the trash.”

Dallas County Health Director Philip Huang said he hasn't seen examples of the littering in person, but acknowledges it the litter could spread the virus.

“If they are having their droplets in these masks, then again, they could be contaminated. So they need to be just discarded properly,” he said.

Dr. Cervantes said she's also concerned by the number of gloves she's seen, which often gives people a false sense of security, with little protection.       

“It's just unnecessary. You don't need to wear gloves. The recommendation is, yes, wear a cloth face covering. I understand that. The gloves are just completely unnecessary,” she said.

Dr. Cervantes said those using a cloth face covering can wash it and reuse it.

For those using something disposable, she again reiterated they should put it in a bag before throwing it out.

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