Environmental health refers to the art and science of preventing human illnesses and injuries while promoting well-being by identifying and evaluating environmental sources and harmful agents. Furthermore, it aims to prevent human diseases and injuries by limiting exposure to various toxic agents, such as chemical, physical and biological agents found in water, air, and soil, that can adversely affect human health. Environmental health entails assessing and controlling environmental factors that may impact one’s health to prevent disease and create environments conducive to good health (Friis, 2018). Environmental factors often adversely influence human health and quality; however, some individual efforts help reduce these adversities.
Environmental Factors that Impact Health
Lead poisoning is a type of poisoning that is common and preventable in many situations and locations. Lead poisoning is most common in regions where the dumping of lead-containing substances has occurred, contaminating water sources and soil. Lead poisoning and environmental exposure frequently result in children developing a variety of behavioral and learning challenges, including low IQ levels, memory impairment, and growth and hearing interferences (Charkiewicz & Backstrand, 2020). Kids get exposed to environmental lead via ingestion and inhalation, with major sources being dust and food. The enhanced exposure gets attributed to toddler and infant behavior of putting hands in the mouth immediately after playing and tasting objects.
Other than that, sewage systems are a significant factor influencing environmental health. For example, onsite wastewater recycling and treatment systems are used in many homes worldwide; thus, sewage systems that are not operating correctly pose a health risk to those who live nearby (Fayomi et al., 2019). In addition, human activities significantly contribute to the production of wastewater from residences, agricultural practices, and industries, which pollutes the environment and water bodies. For example, untreated waste can deplete oxygen levels in the environment due to microbial decomposition of organic matter, destroying the marine ecosystem. It can also degrade water quality, making it unsafe to drink and causing diseases like dysentery, typhoid, and cholera (Fayomi et al., 2019). As a result, it is critical that permits for onsite sewage systems be obtained from the region’s health department and that an environmental health assessment gets performed before construction.
Another critical environmental factor known to affect human health is radon. It is a colorless, inert, highly toxic gas produced from uranium and radium decay (Friis, 2018). Despite not having immediate effects, the gas gets associated with long-term adverse health effects. Environmental radon is the chief source of ionizing radiation and is among the leading causes of lung cancer (Friis, 2018). Most homes keep their windows closed in the US during winter, increasing radon levels (Friis, 2018). Radon is also found in drinking water, is referred to as waterborne radon. However, only a tiny percentage of radon present in the air comes from drinking water. Therefore, waterborne radon gets ingested, enhancing cancer risk in areas such as the stomach (Friis, 2018). Furthermore, it may be released into the air, increasing the chances of lung cancer due to inhalation.
Pollution of the air, water, soil, and food is another environmental factor that impacts health. For example, air pollution harms the respiratory system and contributes to respiratory disorders. Therefore, cleaner indoor air is critical for achieving better health outcomes. In this regard, it should be noted that when indoor air is polluted, people are more likely to suffer from allergic reactions and conditions such as asthma and sinusitis and certain types of cancer and chemical poisoning (Ramankutty et al., 2018). As a result, given that a more significant proportion of people, including infants and young children, spend nearly 90% of their time at home, indoor air quality remains a critical health concern (Ramankutty et al., 2018). Moreover, according to studies, air pollution levels in homes tend to be higher than levels outside.
My role in Improving/ Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
Individuals can help to improve and remove barriers to environmental health. In this regard, my role entails educating communities about the health risks posed by various environmental factors and how to avoid them. For example, my role entails raising awareness about indoor air pollution, the effects of drinking untreated well water on human health, and how affected communities and individuals can address such health risks. Furthermore, it is my responsibility to raise awareness about industrial pollution and its effects on human health and notify the appropriate agencies of pollution incidents.
The environment is a significant determinant of human health and life quality. Thus, various environmental factors have impacted human health, including notable soil, water, and air pollutants such as radon, lead, and wastewater management systems. Such factors have resulted in a variety of health issues in both children and adults, including growth and behavioral issues and various types of cancer. Nonetheless, reducing the effects of environmental factors on human health is an individual responsibility, and everyone should make sure that their surroundings are safe. Furthermore, there is a need to raise awareness among individuals and communities at risk of suffering from such environmental health hazards.
Charkiewicz, A. E., & Backstrand, J. R. (2020). Lead toxicity and pollution in Poland. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), 4385. Web.
Fayomi, G. U., Mini, S. E., Fayomi, O. S. I., Owodolu, T., Ayoola, A. A., & Wusu, O. (2019, September). A mini-review on the impact of sewage disposal on environment and ecosystem. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 331(1), 012040.
Friis, R. H. (2018). Essentials of environmental health (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Ramankutty, N., Mehrabi, Z., Waha, K., Jarvis, L., Kremen, C., Herrero, M., & Rieseberg, L. H. (2018). Trends in global agricultural land use: implications for environmental health and food security. Annual review of plant biology, 69, 789-815.