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PPE: Protect human health with a healthy environment

“Our health depends on the health of our planet’s natural resources. Single-use plastic materials are contaminating our air, water, and soil and, therefore, harming our health. Breaking free from single-use plastics is now a matter of public health.” said Dr. Saulo Delfino Barboza, associate professor of the Health & Education Program at the University of Ribeirao Preto in Brazil.

“We cannot protect human health without a healthy environment. The hundreds of billions of throwaway plastic masks and gloves we are using come at an enormous cost, particularly for communities of color near landfills and incinerators where it is dumped or burned. We need to protect ourselves from COVID today in ways that will not endanger us to other deadly diseases in the future,” said Greenpeace USA.

The drastic rise in the use of disposable PPEs on the global scale has caused problems when it comes to waste and pollution.
According to a study in Environmental Science & Technology, the world is using an estimated 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion disposable gloves each month during the pandemic. The study finds that not only has this led to widespread environmental contamination, but it also poses a significant public health risk as this waste serves as a vector for the virus.
The world has used PPEs faster than manufacturers can supply them, and the usage capacity of a single PPE unit is not helping. Reusable PPEs make sense.
To protect the environment from pollution as well as our communities from the global COVID-19 pandemic, the experts encouraged the general public to practice basic hygiene practices like handwashing and utilize reusable masks while leaving medical-grade and single-use PPE for healthcare and essential workers.

Reusable PPE is better than disposable options, but one of the biggest concerns with reusable PPEs in healthcare is hygiene.
But you have to pay attention to one detail, not all PPE is reusable, you have to pay attention to the instructions and recommendations that have been made for each product.
Certain materials, coupled with the right design, offer adequate protection for the wearer. Most importantly, some materials are easier to treat and disinfect, making it possible for reusable PPEs. Proper removal, containment, and handling of reusable PPEs after each use are crucial to prevent contamination.

There is a lot of information circulating these days, and while nurses must stay informed and educated, information overload is overwhelming. Here are the CDC standards for most PPE:

Masks and Respirators: Face masks and N95 respirators may be reused until they are visibly soiled, or it is difficult to breathe through them. Always perform hand hygiene before donning and before doffing to minimize contaminating the device.
For Masks: Can be worn continuously until visibly soiled or moist from respirations.
For Respirators: It May be worn continuously for up to 8 hours or reused as long as the inside of the respirator remains clean, and you’re able to breathe easily through it.

Eye Protection Equipment: When face shields are not available, use reusable safety glasses or goggles.
Carefully wipe the outside of the face shield or goggles using a wipe or clean cloth saturated with disinfectant solution, alcohol to remove residue.

Paper and plastic gowns can be reused as long as they are not visibly soiled. Alternatives to paper or plastic gowns include patient gowns, disposable lab coats, and disposable coveralls.

Remove Gown for Reuse
While wearing clean gloves, carefully remove them by gently. Hang the gown in an open area and avoid having the gown come in contact with other garments.
Paper and plastic gowns can be reused as long as they are not visibly soiled. Alternatives to paper or plastic gowns include patient gowns, disposable lab coats, and disposable coveralls.

Stay informed and stay committed to protecting yourself with the supplies you have on hand.

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