Single-use plastic gloves seem like a good idea during coronavirus, but here's the problem

Wearing plastic gloves? Please throw them out after you're done.

April 07, 2020, 11:54 AM

People around the world are taking precautions to keep germs at bay amid the coronavirus pandemic, like wearing disposable gloves or masks in public, but the temporary solution could lead to another problem: litter.

News feeds online have filled up with photos of used personal protective equipment strewn about on sidewalks, streets and other public areas.

PHOTO:Discarded latex gloves lie on the ground outside of a grocery store in Glenview, Ill., April 5, 2020.
Discarded latex gloves lie on the ground outside of a grocery store in Glenview, Ill., April 5, 2020.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

And beyond the obvious environmental impact, there's a larger concern that the once-worn items have touched contaminated surfaces and could pose a biohazard threat for those who eventually clean them up.

"Gloves protect you against contact with infectious materials. However, once contaminated, gloves can become a means for spreading infectious materials to yourself, other patients or environmental surfaces," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its PPE guidance.

City officials and health experts have called out the litter bugs in their respective areas and urged people to do better.

PHOTO: This combination of pictures created on March 29, 2020 shows latex plastic gloves littering among other waste the street in Paris on March 29, 2020.
This combination of pictures created on March 29, 2020 shows latex plastic gloves littering among other waste the street in Paris on March 29, 2020.
Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC has recommended gloves as a temporary barrier while cleaning and disinfecting, going in public for essentials, but also calls for proper disposal of them.

The World Health Organization has said people are better off washing and sanitizing their hands than using plastic gloves because bacteria and germs that stick to gloves could be spread to another person.

PHOTO: Pat's Farms grocery store worker John Fedash cleans up the used gloves left in the parking lot and shopping carts in Merrick, N.Y., March 31, 2020.
Pat's Farms grocery store worker John Fedash cleans up the used gloves left in the parking lot and shopping carts in Merrick, N.Y., March 31, 2020.
Al Bello/Getty Images

For anyone who does wear gloves in public, the safest practice is to remove them and dispose of them in a plastic-lined garbage bin that can be tied shut and be tossed out properly. If someone's in public and can't find a proper trash bin, they should take the PPE home and dispose of it in a sealed garbage can.

After discarding PPE, individuals are advised to wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.

PHOTO: Used disposable gloves on sidewalks and streets in Berlin, Kiel, Kassel and Farth.
Used disposable gloves on sidewalks and streets in Berlin, Kiel, Kassel and Farth.
Karmann/Molter/Nietfeld/Steinber via Newscom

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