Environmental health is the study of how the world around us affects our health. This can be from air pollution to global warming and everything in between. The goal is to determine how the world impacts overall human health. And, the initial information is not good. In 2005, the World Helath Organization reported that each year 3 million children under the age of five die from environmental related causes (“How Healthy is Your World? ” 2005). In essence all of human health, except genetics and maybe that too, is affected by the environment.
It affects the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, but too many people take it for granted, not realizing there are things that can be done to improve the environment and its impact on humanity. One of the first and most important things to improve about your personal environment is the quality of the air that you breathe. First and foremost, it is important to avoid tobacco smoke. This is one of the foremost indoor air pollutants and is easily avoidable Other toxins can build up in a well-sealed indoor environment and should be guarded against.
They include chemical vapors from cleaning products, carpeting and other petro-chemical products used indoors (Landgren 2005). The problem is that in many indoor environments there is no filtration system so these pollutants build up and make people ill. Recently, scientists have found that indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor air pollution. Another important factor in environmental health is outdoor air pollution. Though some cities worldwide are particularly known for their pollution that does not mean it is not a problem elsewhere as well.
In Hong Kong, for example, recent research shows that the poorest part of the city have the worst air pollution (Stern 2003). In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attack on New York City air quality tests showed heavy particulates and cancer-causing materials present in much of the air (“Potential exposure” 2003). In addition, hefty amounts of green-houses gases in the city, presumably related to the use of fossil fuels for transportation have led to increasing rates of asthma and other breathing related illnesses (Misner 2003).
To combat these environmental issues, we must find ways to cut our use of individual vehicles, car pooling more, using mass transit and using other means of transportation including walking and riding bicycles. Another major issue we must address to improve the impact the environment has on our health is the availability of clean drinking water. In parts of India where sanitation is inadequate, the water is polluted and contributes to the spread of disease. In other areas, such as part of the American southwest, population centers have developed in areas with inadequate water to support the population.
We must begin serious water conservation efforts and find new ways to process waste so that it does not contaminate the water supply. Another important issue to address is the use of products determined to be toxins. Though efforts have been made to stop using lead-based paint, lead levels in some areas are still too high, causing lead poisoning. In addition, a recent study shows that in areas with high lead levels, there is a corresponding rise in crime (Stretesky 2004). It is important that we enact stricter regulations to remove these known carcinogens from our environment.
Lead has been removed from gas and paint but is still being used in other products and is escaping to the air we breathe. Finally, if we want to serious impact the environment around us and the impact it has on our personal health, it is important that we recycle and buy recycled products. Too many things are going to the landfill, using up previous land to fill it with trash and allowing run off from the decaying trash to endanger our water supply and food sources. We must seriously reduce our need to buy and throw things if we want to keep the land healthy and by extension keep ourselves healthy.