HUMANS HAVE BEEN implicated as the main drivers of many public and environmental health problems caused by actions that degrade the quality of air, land and water while compromising ecosystem services.
The spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been linked to human-animal interactions as well as food and social systems linked to cultural practices. While no direct causal link has been established between climate change and the pandemic, many factors associated with climate change and its impacts, such as deforestation and habitat loss, also increase the risk of disease and new pandemics.
Over the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several sectors have been forced to scale down their operations or even shut down, resulting in economic and livelihood losses globally. Could the severity of the impacts suffered by this pandemic have been less? What if our approach to planning and development was different? We’ve heard, repeatedly, whether from the World Health Organization or the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that there is a relationship between good ventilation and reducing the spread of COVID. -19 inside.
Ventilation, in simple terms, is the exchange of stale air with clean air for better quality. Its importance for the health of a building is just as important as it is for the proper functioning of our lungs.
Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL), over the past two decades, through its Occupational Health, Safety and Health departments, has conducted over 100 indoor air quality assessments of varying complexity across all sectors of activity. The majority of these reviews indicated that poor ventilation was a major problem in our buildings.
To make matters worse, people have resorted to any spray disinfectant available to get rid of the COVID-19 virus inside. The consequences of these activities and the inadequacies of the buildings have had a serious impact on the employees and occupants of the buildings, especially those with compromised or very sensitive respiratory systems.
The negative implications of using certain methods to kill the virus should be taken into account; poor ventilation and related issues can negatively impact business results, primarily through business closures or downsizing.
This pandemic has also brought to the fore the importance of providing safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene conditions, especially in our health and food sectors, in order to minimize the risks of spread. communicable diseases. The water supplied by our faucets normally meets our local and international drinking water standards and is therefore considered safe for consumption. What about other water produced for consumption, whether transported by truck or bottled? And can the same be said of wastewater discharged into our environment?
From our many years of testing water from various matrices through our ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, proper wastewater disinfection seems to be a recurring problem with many wastewater treatment plants. Inadequate treatment and disinfection of wastewater from domestic and industrial uses can enter rivers and other water sources, which can lead to water-borne illnesses, such as gastroenteritis.
The reuse of poorly disinfected effluents for irrigation can also lead to serious public health problems. It should be noted that COVID-19 has been detected in wastewater samples; however, it has not been proven whether the virus can be transmitted by contact with this matrix.
Public health and our economic survival capacity are intrinsically linked and dependent on the health of our environment.
ESL has lived its mission to harmonize development with the health and well-being of the natural and built environment. Through our Division of Environmental Health and Analytical Services, we continue to work with Jamaican and regional governments, businesses and communities to identify and quantify pollutants through the thoughtful application of scientific methods.
Our interdisciplinary team of experts transcends technical and knowledge barriers to provide the quality of service and solutions needed to develop adaptation strategies for business and government towards greater resilience.
Contribution by Rashidah Khan-Haqq, ESL