Environmental health is the part of the public health policy. It investigates numerous external factors, which can affect people’s health and well-being. Environmental health has two primary goals. The first one is to examine and evaluate potential threats to public health. The second is to control those threatening factors by preventing their negative impact and creating various health-supporting environments.
Environmental factors cause more than 13 million deaths every year throughout the world (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). Moreover, approximately 35% of all world’s diseases are also connected with the environmental problems (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). Such kind of statistics leaves the population with the fact that if the situation is not improved, even larger numbers of deaths and diseases will occur.
Examining environmental factors, which affect people’s well-being and health, two most threatening hazards can be identified. According to the same source, those are unsafe water and indoor air pollution (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). Approximately 10% of death caused by environmental factors happen because of these two threats (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). Both water contamination and indoor air pollution combine several types of environmental hazards. For example, water can contain harmful bacteria, which is a biological hazard, and leach lead from pipes, which is a chemical one. The same is true concerning indoor pollution: the usage of combustion products refers to chemical threats, while viruses, mildew, and pollen belong to bacterial hazards. Besides these two groups, there is also a physical type of environmental threat. Such factors as electromagnetic radiation, ultraviolet, and ozone holes refer to this one.
It may seem that improving an overall environmental picture is extremely difficult, almost impossible. Indeed, it is. However, even one person can make a difference. First of all, everyone should be concerned about their own health and well-being and make all possible efforts to prevent air pollution inside the houses and do not use unsafe water. Additionally, every person should contribute to the awareness of the problem, its global scope, and consequences.
According to “Country-by-Country Data” (2007), approximately 865,000 lives will be saved every year if only the level of air pollution is reduced. So, although it is hard to make a difference, it is still worth trying.
Environmental Factors that Impact Health
Many people think that the environmental impact on health is only a negative one. Nevertheless, that is a false conclusion. The environment helps to sustain our health due to water that we drink, air that we breathe, sources of nutrition, and even the ozone layer, which protects people from ultraviolet radiation (AthenaGlobal, 2004, p. 1).
However, many environmental factors have also an adverse impact, which is why they significantly worsen general indicators of environmental health. Moreover, they also rise morbidity and mortality rates. More than 13 million of people all over the world die every year only because they live in an unhealthy environment (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). And the majority of those deaths could be prevented by improving environmental indicators. Although developing countries are much more susceptible to an adverse effect of environment, even well-developed ones can not be immune to it. So, let us consider two most threatening to public health factors.
Two Most Common Factors that Negatively Affect People’s Health
As the data shows, more than 10 percent of all deaths are caused by the same two environmental factors (“Country-by-Country Data”, 2007). Those are unsafe water and indoor air pollution.
Water contamination unites two types of environmental hazards: chemical and biological ones. The problem of bacterial contamination of water has existed for hundreds of years and has become the cause of many global diseases – cholera probably goes first on the list. Presently, an overall picture of water quality has significantly improved due to various types of disinfection, such as chlorination. However, many waterborne infections still exist and pose a threat to humanity. Among such bacteria as Coliforms, which preserve in the soiled water, and Legionella that can grow in the sumps of the water distribution system (Agius, 2007, para. 25). In addition, chlorination that apparently has saved many lives destroying harmful bacteria is not so good for our health as well. Besides chlorination, which is a chemical hazard, there are also a lot of others. For example, water tanks and pipes containing lead increase the risk of the presence of metal in the water.
Indoor air pollution
Indoor pollution can be caused by numerous reasons. First of all, there are combustion sources, such as solid fuel, gas, coal, oil, and wood, which can be used for cooking or for many other purposes (An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality, 2014, para. 7). To the same group, we can also refer tobacco products. In addition to these, there are many biological hazards, such as bacteria and viruses, mildew and pollen, dust mites and cockroaches, as well as many others. Those can both be brought into the house from the outside or grow in an indoor environment if it is warm and damp. What is even worse is that the pesticides used to get rid of them are also harmful to people. Finally, pets, which are so admired and loved by their owners, should also be referred to the group of biological hazards, since they pose a threat as well.
Environmental Factors that Affect Health Classified by Type
There are three types of environmental hazards, and those are physical, chemical and biological.
The first group contains such factors as electromagnetic radiation, starting with natural ultraviolet and finishing with radiation emanating from the radio and microwaves. This hazard is closely connected to another physical threat – ozone holes. Ozone holes are the damages in the ozone layer, which are the reason why ultraviolet can reach and harm people directly. Direct UV exposure can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other health-related problems.
Some of the chemical hazards have already been mentioned above while discussing water contamination and indoor pollution. However, there are much more of them. One of the biggest chemical threats is air pollution, and probably the main factors that contribute to it are the products of combustion of solid fuels, liquid petroleum products, etc. The health problems related to this hazard are various diseases of the respiratory system, such as bronchitis and asthma.
Many biological hazards have already been mentioned before as well. Nevertheless, this list can be greatly expanded. In addition to water, there are many other areas where bacteria can grow, for example, so-called clinical waste and house dust. The risk is high enough since those can contain not only numerous allergens but also blood stained needles.
My Role in Improving/Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
Although many people think that they are not able to make a difference, they are. Admittedly, it is hard to believe that an individual can improve such global problems as ozone holes or stop global warming but there are numerous problems, which are not on a large scale.
To start with, I can gradually reduce indoor pollution through household interventions. I can start using cleaner fuel and even electrical cooking devices to prevent contamination caused by combustion sources. Besides, smokers can refrain from smoking in the house or even switch to electronic cigarettes. To fix the result, the improvements of ventilation should be implemented. As for water quality and safety, I should be more concerned about what I drink. Perhaps, the water filters should be installed. Besides, I should not only drink safer water but use it for cooking as well.
In addition to all of this, both members of my family and I should modify our behavior and develop extra habits, which will prevent an adverse effect of environmental factors. As an example, we can wash our hands more often, as well as frequently do the cleaning, and take out the trash. The smokers can refrain from smoking near children. The pets should not be allowed to be too close to the dining tables or beds. And this list can be greatly expanded.
Besides taking care of my own home, health and well-being, I can also contribute to the common cause. One person is hardly able to make a difference regarding the problems of a global scale; however, he or she still can gather a large number of like-minded people. As Crone (2010) states, “One step we will need to take is to become more educated about this problem. Many people in our country, and throughout the world, do not realize the seriousness of our environmental problem” (p. 216). Considering this, I can become a volunteer and assist with different actions, performances, and educational programs aimed to gather more people who are interested in achieving environmental goals. Perhaps, one day I will even take part in the research or a study.
Summary and Conclusion
To conclude, the environmental problem indeed is one of the greatest concerns of public health. There are many factors, which have an adverse impact on people’s well-being, from physical to biological ones, and millions of people throughout the world even die because of those. That happens every year, and the tendency persists. A healthier environment will prevent many deaths, as well as reduce the number and severity of diseases caused by environmental factors. It may seem surprising, but even one person is able to make a difference if he or she makes enough efforts.
Agius, R. (2007). What effects can the Environment have on Health? Web.
An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). (2014). Web.
AthenaGlobal. (2004). Environmental Factors Affecting Health. Web.
Country-by-Country Data Show in Detail the Impact of Environmental Factors on Health. (2007). Anonymous Journal of Environmental Health, 70(2), 57.
Crone, J. A. (2010). How Can We Solve Our Social Problems? (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.