PPE washes up off French coast raising concerns over impact pandemic is having on environment

Video shared online shows latex gloves and masks strewn along the sea floor

Matt Mathers
Thursday 28 May 2020 15:31 BST
PPE washes up on idyllic French lakes

Discarded personal protective equipment (PPE) has been found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, fuelling concerns over the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the environment.

In a video shared online, several pairs of latex gloves, surgical masks and other face coverings can be seen strewn along the ocean floor near the coast of Cannes, France.

Activist Laurent Lombard recorded the clip while diving near Antibes, about 6 miles east of Cannes on the French Riviera.

It has since been uploaded to the Facebook page of the Clean Sea Operation where it has been viewed almost 200,000 times, sparking anger among commentators.

“Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean…!” Mr Lombard wrote in a caption accompanying the video.

“The health crisis has allowed us to see the best and worst in us. If we do nothing, it’s the worst that will happen when it’s simply a matter of common sense to avoid all of this,” he added.

Countries across the globe have been ordering millions of pieces of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to help stop the spread of the novel disease.

While PPE such as face masks is vital in helping to prevent transmission between medics in hospital, there is little evidence to suggest that they work in the wider community.

Environmentalists have pointed out that the use of disposable masks by the wider public is likely to add to the glut of plastic pollution threatening the health of oceans and marine life.

An early warning sign of the worrying trend came in February, when conservation group OceansAsia posted a photo of dozens of surgical masks they discovered on Hong Kong beaches during a year-long research project into marine debris and micro-plastics.

Co-founder Gary Stokes told The Independent at the time: “The way I see these masks in the environment is just another addition to the ever-growing marine debris crisis our oceans are facing.

“No better, no worse, just shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’m waiting to hear of the first necropsy that finds masks inside a dead marine animal. It’s not a question of if, but when.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in