As the world is anxiously awaiting the results of the global mass inoculations to contain the surging coronavirus pandemic, yet another threat is lurking. Uncountable used face masks, gloves, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other COVID-19 related waste have brought the escalating danger of pollution to the next level, experts fear. The looming fear is further strengthened by European Union’s disease control agency’s warning that the novel virus will last long-term despite vaccine rollouts. Carelessly disposed off face masks, gloves, tissue papers, and other waste are not only adding to the already rising levels of pollution, mainly in the developing countries like Pakistan but also appear as a high-risk health factor, especially when the pandemic is continuing. The risk factor would obviously be high as these discarded commodities don’t carry any tag, and more specifically the children of poor neighborhood are at the highest risk of exposing with various pathogens, according to Karachi-based environmentalist, Rafiul Haq. The risk factor, Haq said, stretches from possible recycling of the used materials through the possibility of these pathogens into the food chain through various means, such as scavenger birds, insects and even fish. Nazifa Butt, a senior manager climate and energy program of the Worldwide Fund of Nature (WWF) Pakistan said the excessive use of disposable gloves, masks, and tissue papers has increased the public health risk through littering, open burning or uncontrolled incineration of the waste. This, she added, would lead to release of toxins in the environment and the secondary transmission of several diseases to humans. ““Potentially infectious or contaminated waste is not meant to be recycled. Rather, it must be treated through incineration, however, as a last resort, it can be disposed of in a safe zone of a landfill site, “ Butt maintained. These masks and gloves are made of synthetic fibers and do not degrade in the environment once discarded, instead they break down into micro plastics that end up in landfills or find way into waterways and the ocean, hence disturbing the ecosystem. The latest research by a Brussels-based organization, Waste Free Oceans that collects and transforms ocean plastic into new innovative products, reveals that a plastic mask takes 450 years to have decomposed in nature. -Pakistan’s beaches bear the brunt In Karachi, the country’s largest city, and the commercial capital, COVID-19 related waste has added to the huge piles of garbage, making things even worse for its inhabitants. According to a WWF study, around 65% of the garbage littered at the beaches in Pakistan consists of plastic waste that poses serious threat to the marine life. Waterlogged COVID-19 waste has been spotted on these beaches and in the sea, further aggravating the challenge, the study said. “The single use mask and latex gloves that have been used across the world are now being found on many coastlines, above and below the waves, as well as in parks and streets. All drains lead to the ocean, and this is one way masks are entering our environment. The threat they pose to marine life is significant”, said WWF. “Indeed, it is creating a high risks where a sizeable economy looms around coastal tourism, our case is relatively a bit different. Our dilemma is lack of awareness, and an appropriate waste management system, “ Haq opined adding that absence of political will has further exacerbated the problem.