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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Animal activists are warning masks and personal protection equipment are harming wildlife.

PETA said people aren’t disposing of their masks or gloves properly, with many ending up tossed on the ground. The items meant to keep us safe from the virus are now causing problems for wildlife.

“It’s not right,” Chula Vista resident Luz Lopez said. “It just takes a minute, literally, to just put it in the trash can.”

Lopez said she understands the importance of wearing her mask while she exercises at Bayside Park. But she’s concerned about the number of masks littering the ground. Crystal Silmi with PETA said birds and marine animals have gotten tied up and choked on littered masks and gloves. 

“They’re mistaking these items for food, and then their digestive systems get blocked and many of them just die,” she said.

PPE and masks that end up in waterways take hundreds of years to biodegrade, according to Silmi, and they disintegrate into dangerous micro plastics.

“Micro plastics are really quite dangerous. They go into our water and eventually get into our human body, so even if you’re not thinking like, ‘Hey I don’t care about animals,’ you really have to care about human beings,” Silmi said.

She’s urging the public to choose reusable masks and dispose of their PPE properly in a trash can.

“Wear your masks, that’s great, but it takes a second to put it away,” Lopez said. “It’s easy, we just have to be conscious, be aware of it. It’s not only affecting the animals, but in the end it’s affecting everybody.”

If you must use disposable masks, PETA said dispose of it properly by cutting off the ends and throwing it in the trash.