USED facemasks are a potential health hazard - and should always be disposed of properly, York's public health boss has warned.

Dozens of people responded to a letter from Press reader Maureen Robinson in which she highlighted the problem of dropped facemasks in York.

"Why is it that some people think it is alright to dispose of their facemasks by just dropping them on the ground?," Mrs Robinson, from Broadway, asked.

"There is enough rubbish lying on grass verges without masks, which (should) be taken home by the users and put in their own dustbins."

One Press reader, Anthony Helme, reported seeing masks dropped near the entrance to York Hospital. "Lazy people just throwing them on the floor next to both rubbish bins and PPE bins with no excuse!" he wrote on Facebook.

Heather Storr counted six in one morning while doing the school run. "They are everywhere - you see so many around the doctors surgeries where I live," added Betty Diamond. "They are just thrown everywhere, even on (the) floor next to bins."

Mary Reeson even reported seeing discarded facemasks in supermarket trolleys. "Seriously, do people need to know how to dispose of these as well as washing their hands?" she asked.

Kim Kent picked up on the theme. "This is clinical waste and should be disposed of in special bags for incineration!" she said.

York council's public health director Sharon Stoltz said it was good to see that so many people at least were now using facemasks. This was 'helping to reduce the spread of Coronavirus', she said.

“But it is vital that single use masks are disposed of correctly - in waste bins at home or a litter bin when out in public," she added. "If no bin is available, please take this home to dispose of there.

"Single use masks must never be dropped irresponsibly, as this undoes the hard work we are all doing to stop the spread of the virus."

As for reusable masks - they should be stored safely in a bag after use until they could be washed, she said. It was important that they were washed regularly.

It was also important to wash your hands after taking off a mask - whether the disposable or re-usable kind, she said.

“After taking off your mask it is vital to either wash or clean your hands with anti-bacterial gel. From the moment we pick up our face coverings to how we dispose of them, each step is key to ensure they are most effective.”