Week 1 – Lecture 1 – Chapter 1
What is environmental health?
- According to the WHO:
o “In its broadest sense, environmental health comprises those aspects of human health,
disease and injuries that are determined or influenced by factors in the environment.”
o “This includes the study of both the direct and the indirect pathological effects of various
o We’ve changed the environment through various human activities. Why? – Humans want
life satisfaction even if it means to go beyond boundaries.
Chemical (in water, air, soil, food) –
Atmosphere: CO2 (30% increase since the industrial revolution), CFC,
Sulfur and Nitrogen (acid rain), Methane (60% increase)
Biological (Bacteria, viruses, parasites, allergens, animals such as bees and
poisonous snakes – (more freshwater is used)
Geosphere (geo=land): 1/3 to 1/2 of the land surface has been transformed
by human action – mostly through mining.
Biosphere (bio=life): ¼ of the bird population is now extinct (same goes to
amphibians) – mostly d/t cutting and clearing forests.
Physical – (radiation, fire, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake)
Social - (Unsafe working conditions, poor diet, drugs, drinking, driving, poverty,
smoking) - (housing, urban development, land use, transportation)
Industrialization – greater than population growth – d/t fossil fuels,
automobile industry, synthetic materials – higher population = more need
for materials and production
Industrialization and Population (Overpopulation and Overconsumption)
determines environmental transformation – main driving forces of
- The declining health of other organisms is the clearest indicator of environmental threats to
o Frogs – decrease in numbers – decreased reproduction and bad health
No single factor is responsible:
Increase UV (thinning of stratospheric ozone)
Traces of toxic chemicals
Infections (fungi and bacteria)
Predators (foreign introduced)
- Environmental factors are responsible for 25 % of all preventable diseases – however scientists
today argue the relevance or relationship between the environment and health as it is difficult to
- In developing countries diarrhea and respiratory infections are heading the list
- Protecting the environment has been a mainstay of public health practices since 1878
- Rich & Poor o Poverty reflects the imbalance between population and resources.
Poor people are forced to migrate to dangerous steeper lands that are often least
productive and ecologically fragile.
They often farm on steep slopes and are living in areas threatened by
drought and flood.
Their need for survival (rich as well) causes deforestation, increase in soil
erosion, mud slides, etc. reduces agricultural productivity – this also
changes the environment leading to health risks.
- African Americans & Hispanic & Whites
o African American, Hispanic and low income populations have been found to have
hospitalization and death