Masks, PPE Begin to Pollute San Francisco Bay

Mask San Francisco (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

Discarded masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) have begun to wash into the San Francisco Bay with the arrival of the first winter rains, creating a new local pollution problem.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday:

The Bay Area’s first rain of the season is washing away worries of wildfire and drought. But it’s also bringing a new concern: gobs of face masks flooding San Francisco Bay.

Early season storms typically sweep a slurry of debris from streets and sidewalks into rivers, creeks and bays. This year, the fall flush not only contains the usual gunk, waste experts say, but a whole lot of discarded PPE — or personal protective equipment, the detritus of the pandemic.

This influx of safety scraps into waterways is tough to quantify. However, the California Coastal Commission offered at least some idea of the volume: The agency said there was so much PPE during this year’s September volunteer coastal cleanup and inventory that it had to create a new category for masks and gloves. The items ranked between plastic cups and beverage lids on the list of the top 15 types of litter.

The materials used in PPE, whose use has become widespread in response to the coronavirus pandemic, poses a particular danger to marine life because it is made of plastic and rubber, and does not break down easily.

California, like many other states, is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases with the arrival of winter.

Earlier this year, rolling blackouts in large portions of California — partly the result of the state’s rapid shift to solar and wind power — caused 50,000 gallons of sewage to be dumped into the Oakland estuary.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to San Francisco because of human waste and drug needles washing into the bay as the result of the city’s large homeless population.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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