Ethics Guidance for Environmental Scientists Engaged in Surveillance of Wastewater for SARS-CoV-2.06 July 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to rapid and widespread international pursuit of wastewater surveillance for genetic signals of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the pandemic. Environmental scientists and engineers familiar with the techniques required for this endeavor have responded. Many of the environmental scientists engaged in these investigations have not necessarily had experience with the ethical obligations associated with generating and handling human health data. The Canadian Water Network facilitated adoption of these surveillance methods by creating a national coalition, which included a public health advisory group that recognized a need for ethics guidance for the wastewater approach to public health surveillance. This Policy Analysis addresses that need and is based on a review of relevant ethics literature tightly focused on ethics applicable to public health surveillance. That review revealed that classical health bioethics governing clinical practice and general public health ethics guidance did not adequately address key issues in wastewater surveillance. The 2017 World Health Organization guidelines, directly based on a systematic literature review, specifically addressed ethical issues in public health surveillance. The application of relevant ethical guidance to wastewater surveillance is analyzed and summarized for environmental scientists.