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  • UW-Superior research focuses on waste in COVID-19 PPE

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    November 16, 2020
    University of Wisconsin-Superior chemistry professor Lorena Rios Mendoza and student Callie Lier are currently researching the increase in personal protective equipment (PPE) waste, such as disposable masks and gloves, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced nearly aspect of daily life. While many of the changes have been expected, others have been unthought of, such as additional waste caused by disposable masks and gloves. To date, more than 200 masks and gloves have been found littered at more than 20 locations throughout Superior. With an increase in COVID-19 quickly spreading, the amount of PPE waste has the potential to grow drastically in the Twin Ports region.
    Rios Mendoza gained national and international attention due to the unique work she and her team at UW-Superior are doing to understand the sources, impacts and solutions to increased plastics in oceans and the Great Lakes. Microplastics, microbeads and plastic fibers, are being found in water worldwide. These tiny plastics attract toxins, are eaten by aquatic bugs and fish and make their way up the food web to our dinner plates. Rios Mendoza and her plastics research were involved with legislation in Wisconsin that bans microbeads in the water.
    In July, Rios Mendoza, along with colleagues from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison and the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, were awarded a grant by the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin to study microplastics in the St. Louis River Estuary and western Lake Superior.
    To arrange an interview with Rios Mendoza and Lier, please contact Jim Biros, University Marketing and Communications, at jbiros@uwsuper.edu or (715) 394-8260.

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