Public Health Achievement #3: Healthier environments

March great public health achievement badgeSomehow it’s almost the end of March and I’ve just realized that I completely missed posting about the public health achievement for February1.  Yikes! Anyway, here’s March’s:

Healthier Environments

Usually when we think of “health” we think of medicine, nutrition & physical activity.  But things like water and air quality are tremendously important to health as well.  Just think of the seven who died, and thousands who were sickened, by the E. coli-contaminated water in Walkerton, ON in 2000.

Some random interesting facts about healthier environments

  • the regulation of sewage and the water supply was first started in Quebec in 1894. This type of work reduced diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and typhoid fever which used to be common because drinking water would get contaminated by sewage. Shockingly, some cities still do not process their sewage today (!) including Victoria, BC, Halifax, NS and St. John’s, NL.
  • community water fluoridation – which helps prevent tooth decay – was first started in Canada with a pilot project in Brantford, ON in 1945. Today about 45% of Canadians have access to fluoridated water, though the rates vary from none to very little of the populations in Yukon, Nunavut, BC & NL to the majority of the population (~75%) in Ontario & Alberta.
  • the Environmental Protection Act was passed (reducing the contribution of vehicles to air pollution in 1988).
  • 20%-30% of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds (i.e., where we get our water from) can be traced to dog poop!

Stuff you can do:

We all know about the things we can do to be kinder to the environment (like walking, biking or taking transit instead of driving; or using reusable mugs and shopping bags rather than disposable ones). But here are a few other, less commonly thought about things you can do to make your environment healthier:

  • Pick up your dog’s poop! Not only is dog poop left in yards or on sidewalks just plain gross, it can be a health hazard too!
  • Use Health Canada’s Hazardcheck website to check your environment for (and learn more about how to deal with) hazards!
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  • Use a dehumidifier if your house is damp to prevent the growth of mould2
  • Pay attention to consumer safety warnings/recalls to make sure you don’t have any hazardous products in your home.
  • If your community doesn’t already have them, advocate for fluoridation of water and for sewage treatment3.
  1. I’m going to write it after this and back date it. Because clearly I’m not above such things []
  2. being a basement dweller, I know all about the nastiness of mould! []
  3. I’m looking at you, Victoria, BC []