The COVID-19 pandemic and its environmental implications – The European Sting - Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriela de Mattos Laube and Ms. Mariana Fonseca Santana and Ms. Kamila Andrade Santana, two second-year medical students from  Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The progress of the quality of human life is related to environmental conditions at local and global levels. This premise is proven in human evolution until the modern world, which, for centuries, depends on the environment where it lives to develop. The COVID-19 pandemic created conditions for negative and positive environmental impacts to be presented, as there was not only the incorrect use and disposal of contaminated non-biodegradable waste but also the presence of environmental improvements that marked these changes. Because of this, studies direct discussions of what will be the next steps for humanity to reduce the damage.

Personal protective equipment (masks, caps, gloves) is necessary, as they reduce the spread of the virus. However, the incorrect disposal of this non-biodegradable material and the lack of management of the waste generated imply negative effects on the environment and, as a consequence, on human health. This is because both the water pollution by nanoplastics and microplastics derived from the decomposition of masks and gloves, as well as the chemicals used in these accessories, are released into the environment, causing a transfer of these contaminants to the various trophic levels, including humans, last animal in the chain and which receives most of these particles, which can cause hormonal and reproductive changes.Thus, the next steps include improving the disposal and treatment of this waste, especially in countries that suffer from a lack of infrastructure to effectively manage it, in addition to continuing to invest in research to learn more about this impact, since there is a limitation in the understanding of this issue in the current scenario.

Contrary to this reality, there have also been positive environmental changes, resulting from the quarantines established by most governments. Among them, there was a decrease in the emission of pollutants, due to the lower use of carbon-derived fuels, in addition to improvements in the cleanliness of beaches, the appearance of the sky, and the presence of wild animals in urban centers around the world. There is also talk of a decrease in noise pollution, due to the lower movement of vehicles and people on the streets. Because of this, the relevance of changes in the standard of human life is remarkable, so that positive repercussions occur in the environment, corroborating with the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) of the UN (United Nations), such as: “cities and sustainable communities” and “action against global climate change”.

Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic had several impacts and made professionals from different areas propose next steps to contain and reduce the negative effects and reinforce the positive ones. From a review of the current scenario, the result of a society living with the circulation of the virus, the importance of investments in research can be seen, given its extreme relevance in proposing effective solutions to improve the management of the disposal of used safety equipment , in addition to emphasizing the necessary change in unsustainable and polluting habits. In order to help the environment and consequently offer quality of life to humans.


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About the authors

Mariana Fonseca Santana and Kamila Andrade Santana are second-year medical students from  Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), a cordial partner of The Sting.

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