People didn’t respond, and Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (D—Woodbury) is furious. Nassau County has issued several warnings for residents to stop throwing their personal protective equipment (PPE) wherever they feel like, but the streets are simply full of used gloves and masks.
But when people throw masks all over the place, such as in a supermarket’s parking lot, someone has to pick it up. Besides risking the lives of workers in an establishment, dropping one’s PPE anywhere other than the garbage can also endanger wildlife and children.
“As healthcare professionals, we are taught how to properly remove and safely dispose of masks and gloves,” Dr. Eve Krief from the American Academy of Pediatrics said. “The public needs to understand that these are hazardous materials potentially contaminated with coronavirus.”
Lafazan saw this happen one too many times and he’s proposing a change to the county’s littering laws to fine those who are being careless with their PPE. If the law passes, those who violate it are subject to a $250 fine.
“Whether I was at the supermarket in my community or the beach, I would see PPE, such as gloves and masks, on the ground,” Lafazan said. “At first, I thought it was an annoyance. Then, I spoke to environmentalists and learned about how these items cause significant danger to wildlife. These PPE items actually contain the virus and can spread it. I spoke to essential workers who are stuck picking them up, so I decided I wanted to take action.”
Suffolk County recently sponsored a similar bill, which passed unanimously. However, Lafazan’s proposal is sitting still in the Nassau County Legislature. There has still been no vote on the bill.
“A lot of it is a lack of education and people don’t realize these items can spread the virus,” Lafazan said. “Wildlife and children can be attracted to these items. What happens in the county is that officials would ask the public not to litter these items. People didn’t respond.
“We have littering laws already, but they’re not working. This isn’t normal litter. This is littering an item that can spread the virus.”
Another proposal Lafazan came up with is to explore the development and implementation of a community service requirement that can be completed in lieu of paying a fine. Lafazan believes the legislature will vote for it during its next meeting.