Environmental Health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environment. Environmental health is focused on the natural and built environments for the benefit of human health .
Air pollution is one of the major concerns of environmental health. It is a contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by chemical, physical or biological agents that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere . Air pollution may come from anthropogenic (human activity) or natural sources. Common sources of air pollution are household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires . The most common and widespread air pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases which can be fatal. Diseases such as strokes, Ischaemic heart disease, respiratory diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are attributed to air pollution . According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012 around 7 million people died prematurely as a result of air pollution exposure.
Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate for extended periods of time, usually over decades or longer. This includes major, long-term changes in temperature, precipitation, humidity, ocean heat, wind patterns, sea level, sea ice extent, and other factors and how these changes affect life on earth .
Causes of climate change
Climate change results from both human activities and natural causes. Human activities include the emission of heat trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere and changes in land-use patterns, such as agriculture and urbanization. Natural causes range from regular patterns shifts in the dynamics of our oceans and atmosphere, such as El Niño, to volcanic eruptions that emit various gases and aerosols in the atmosphere, to long-term changes in earth’s orbit around the sun, to variations in the amount of energy from the sun that reaches earth . Climate change is among the greatest health risks of the 21st century . Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events cost lives directly, increase transmission and spread of infectious diseases, and undermine the environmental determinations of health, including clean air and water, and sufficient food .
Food safety encompasses actions aimed at ensuring that all food is as safe as possible. Food safety policies and actions need to cover the entire food chain, from production to consumption . Food safety is a cross-cutting issue and shared responsibility that requires participation of non-public health sectors; that is, agriculture, trade and commerce, environment, tourism, and support of major international and regional agencies and organizations active in the fields of food, emergency aid, and education. If food is not properly taken care of, it can be harmful to human health. Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning though, is 100% preventable when properly handled . There are five key principles of food hygiene  which are: 1. Prevent contaminating food with pathogens spreading from people, pets, and pests. 2. Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods. 3. Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens. 4. Store food at the proper temperature. 5. Do use safe water and raw materials .
Childhood lead poisoning prevention
An increase level of lead in the body is harmful to human health but it is particularly toxic to children, causing potentially hearing problems, permanent learning and behavioral disorders. Routes of exposure to lead include contaminated air, water, soil, food, and consumer products . A fetus developing in the womb of a woman who has elevated blood lead level is susceptible to lead poisoning by intrauterine exposure, and is at greater risk of being born prematurely or with a low birth weight . Children are more at risk for lead poisoning because their smaller bodies are in a continuous state of growth and development . Children as they are learning to crawl and walk are constantly on the floor and therefore more prone to ingesting and inhaling dust that is contaminated with lead .
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning include abdominal pain, confusion, headache, anemia, irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, constipation, lethargy, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and in severe cases seizure, kidney failure, coma, and death .
Prevention of lead poisoning
In most cases, lead poisoning is preventable by avoiding exposure to lead. Measures or steps to reduce the blood lead levels of children include increasing their frequency of handwashing and their intake of calcium and iron, discouraging them from putting their hands in their mouths, vacuuming frequently, and eliminating the presence of lead-containing objects such as blinds and jewelry in the house . Screening is also an important preventive strategy. Through screening, the child’s blood is tested for high lead exposure. Another preventive measure for lowering childhood lead exposures include banning the use of lead where it is not essential and strengthening regulations that limit the amount of lead in soil, water, air, household dust, and products . Other methods involve cleaning uncarpeted floors, cleaning carpets and rugs, and cleaning or dusting walls and other painted surfaces .
Safe drinking water
The safety and accessibility of drinking water are major concerns throughout the world today. Health risks may arise from consumption of water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. Improving access to safe drinking water can result in tangible improvements to health . The quality of drinking water is a powerful environmental determinant of health . . Assurance of drinking water safety is a foundation for prevention and control of water borne diseases . There are two million diarrhea deaths related to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene, the vast majority among children under 5. More than one billion people lack access to an improved water sources .
Other closely related articles in this wiki include:
- WHO | Environmental health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2016, from http://www.who.int/topics/environmental_health/en/
- WHO | 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution. (March 25, 2014). [News Release]. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/
- Loftis, Randy Lee. (October 29, 2015). Smoke From Wildfires Is Killing Hundreds of Thousands of People. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/151029-wildfires-smoke-asthma-indonesia-california-health/
- Fears, D. (2016, February 12). More than 5 million people will die from a frightening cause: Breathing. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/12/more-than-5-million-people-will-die-from-a-frightening-cause-breathing/
- WHO | Climate change. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2016, from http://www.who.int/topics/climate/en/
- WHO | Climate change. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2016, http://www.who.int/globalchange/en/
- WHO | Food safety. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2016, from http://www.who.int/topics/food_safety/en/
- WHO | World Health Day 2015: From farm to plate, make food safe. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/food-safety/en/
- Wines, Michael, & Schwartz, John. (2016, February 8). Unsafe Lead Levels in Tap Water Not Limited to Flint. The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/us/regulatory-gaps-leave-unsafe-lead-levels-in-water-nationwide.html
- Chelala, Cesar. (2016, February 18). Environmental Degradation Takes a Heavy Toll on Women and Children’s Health. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1969538-environmental-degradation-takes-a-heavy-toll-on-women-and-childrens-health/
- Retrieved February 16, 2016, from https://www.epa.gov/your-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water#health)
- US EPA, O. (n.d.). Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead [Overviews and Factsheets]. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead#homeleadsafe
- WHO | Drinking-water. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://www.who.int/topics/drinking_water/en/
- WHO | Drinking-water quality. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2016, from http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/en/
- WHO | Household water treatment and safe storage. (n.d.). Retrieved February 03, 2016, from http://www.who.int/household_water/en/
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