The New York Times reports that the United States has issued a rollback on its environmental protection laws during the COVID-19 epidemic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made it so industries and factories no longer have to report legal requirements for emissions and pollutants during the coronavirus pandemic. Companies have been allowed to monitor themselves for an undetermined period as the coronavirus pandemic has no end date as of now. Companies typically have to report the amount of pollution they emit to water and air, but under this new legislation, there are currently no penalties for violating emission limits. The coronavirus is the reason for suspending the emission requirements.
The EPA has said that companies need to focus on production since the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in layoffs and unforeseen circumstances that may negatively affect production. Companies can now pollute and violate environmental rules as long as they deem that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected them. An article from a New York Times has a statement from Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator saying “challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements”. Though this may be true for some individual companies, applying a ‘”one-size fits all approach” to every company is trouble waiting to happen.
Increasing air pollution may also have negative effect on those suffering symptoms of the coronavirus as the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system. Air quality is directly linked to lung health, this is why smokers often have higher rates of lung cancer. Decreasing air quality through increased emissions is likely to increase respiratory problems and has the possibility to exacerbate the coronavirus. Many factories are located in areas where marginalized people live that may already face health implications and lack access to medical care.
Increasing emissions and pollutants can have negative effects on human health, but it also has far-reaching environmental effects. An old adage from the past claimed, “dilution is the solution”, but with more research and time to pass, the evidence is clear that this statement is false. The ecological integrity of many environments cannot withstand excessive pollutants. This rollback of environmental rules is likely to have long-lasting effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems across the country. Canada is likely to also feel the burden from the increased stress applied to our ecosystems since the two countries share a border. The Great Lakes may be negatively affected by this decision.
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