The environment in which we live can substantially affect our health and well-being. Monitoring and responding to issues that arise in the environment is critical for ensuring the safety and health of our environment, as well as ourselves and our communities. We are exploring the potential impacts that COVID-19 response measures may have had on both the natural and built environments, including air, water, soil, and infrastructure.
We have divided the reports that concern
environmental health by:
With less people commuting and travelling, due to advisories against non-essential travel and more people working from home, we believe there will be benefits for the natural environment, such as less air pollution. On the other hand, we also know there has been a rise in single-use products, increased use of packaging (more take-out food services and online shopping), as well as possible increases in exposures to potentially hazardous cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
COVID-19 response measures have reduced the amount of movement and travel for the general population, as well as led to less production and activity among some industries, which can improve the level of air pollution and carbon emissions. Air pollution is associated with both short and long-term health effects (e.g., asthma).
There has been widespread use of chemicals and non-recyclable, non-compostable, and disposable materials to minimize potential exposures and transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., gloves, masks, bags). Single-use plastics pose concerns for human health and the environment.
Use of chemicals and single-use items can pollute oceans, but reduced industrial ocean traffic may improve water quality. Assessment of drinking water quality may be delayed among small water systems.
Human-made environments include urban, suburban, and rural community designs and infrastructure. These built environments can assist population health and well-being, such as ensuring safe roadways and other infrastructure as well as aiding in access to green spaces. We are reviewing how the COVID-19 pandemic response measures have created less traffic on roadways and increased use of community green spaces, which has both potential benefits and harms to infrastructure.
The federal and provincial governments are responding to the impact of the pandemic on communities throughout BC by funding infrastructure maintenance and improvements projects. This funding will target local and Indigenous government buildings, health and educational infrastructure, transportation networks, disaster mitigation and adaptation infrastructure, as well as other infrastructure projects that will support resiliency, safety, and sustainability in communities.