Health Information

Environmental Factors that Impact Your Health

Our physical environment is a significant determinant of our health. The way our spaces are designed, built and maintained impacts our ability to move in those settings. It changes our ability to move through and be safe in our environment.

Consider how neighbourhood design impacts health.

Walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods make us:

  • More likely to be physically active
  • More social
  • More likely to eat healthier foods

Neighbourhoods with lots of shade can protect us from overexposure to the sun. Improved sanitation reduces our exposure to contaminated water, insects and other sources of infectious disease.

Lambton Public Health focuses on four main areas of the physical environment:

  • Built environment
  • Climate change planning
  • Vector-borne disease
  • Air and water quality

Built Environment

Lambton Public Health’s Built Environment Checklist is a tool local communities can use to design and build for health. Checklist includes healthy options for:

  • Transportation networks
  • Food systems
  • Neighbourhood design
  • Natural environments
  • Housing

Climate Change

Our climate is changing. Over time extreme weather events may happen more often and be more severe. Lambton Public Health and our municipal partners need to be prepared to keep people safe and healthy. We work to assist municipal partners with emergency planning as it relates to health issues that can result from weather events and other emergencies.

Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Disease

Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that are transmitted to humans from animals or insects. Some diseases that originate in animals must be transmitted through a “vector” (e.g., mosquito, tick) in order to infect a human. They can pass to humans through brief contact, or extended contact.

  • Rabies – bite of an infected bat or other animal
  • Lyme disease – the bite of an infected blacklegged tick
  • West Nile virus – the bite of an infected mosquito

Our focus in Lambton County is rabies, Lyme disease and West Nile virus. We conduct ongoing surveillance to manage the risk from emerging disease and monitor the range of animals that carry diseases that can transmit these diseases to people.  We also monitor and assess reports of positive or suspected human cases.

We use two kinds of surveillance:

  • Active surveillance – public health staff will conduct trapping, counting and testing of different vectors, like mosquitoes and ticks
  • Passive surveillance – public health receives regional and community information to understand where vectors may be located, along with samples submitted from the public

We use surveillance to decide where and how to control vectors. For example, we work with the local conservation authority to add larvicide to catch basins to reduce the mosquito population. And, we enforce municipal bylaws to control vectors, by removing standing water that creates mosquito breeding grounds.

Learn more about Tick and Insect Testing or what to do if you find a tick.

Air & Water Quality

Air and water can be sources of exposure to environmental hazards.

Lambton Public Health works closely with water operators, municipalities, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to ensure municipal water is safe to drink. We also work with operators of independent wells or small, drinking water systems.

In the event of a disruption in the water system, if there is a significant risk to the community, Lambton Public Health may issue water advisories (boil water or “do not drink the water”).

We also monitor the water quality at 7 different beaches in Lambton County. This monitoring takes place during the summer months. The current status of the beaches can be accessed by the public several different ways. Learn more about beach water quality surveillance.

Lead is commonly found in the environment and typically found in drinking water as a result of leaching from distribution and plumbing system components. Historically, lead has been used extensively in service lines, solders and fittings, making its presence in drinking water more likely in older homes and neighbourhoods. Learn more about food and water safety.

Although air quality has improved steadily over the last few decades, air quality remains an ongoing concern in Lambton. Lambton Public Health works with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, industrial and community stakeholders to understand and address health impacts of air quality in our community.

Clean Air Sarnia and Area along with Air Quality Ontario. will provide additional information on the Air Quality Health Index, Special Air Quality Statements. and Smog & Air Health Advisories.

Control

There are many ways to control vectors. One of the best is to reduce or prevent human exposure to the vector. Take personal precautions to avoid contact with infected animals:

  • Don’t provoke dogs, cats and other animals
  • Don’t touch unknown animals
  • Take care when touching animals, even those known to you, especially with young children / infants
  • Wear mosquito repellent when moving through forested areas at dusk and dawn
  • Wear long sleeves and pants in wooded and grassy areas
  • Check for ticks on yourself, children, and your animals after being in wooded, grassy areas

For more information or questions about environmental impacts on your health, contact Lambton Public Health.