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University of Toronto Scarborough
Environmental Science
Jovan Stefanovic

Life Support: The Environment and Human Health Chapter 1: Environment, Health, and Risk - Improved water, food, sanitation = improved nutrition, cleaner fuels - We have many global problems o Global warming, population growth, habitat destruction, resource depletion The Environmental Crisis - Human beings are changing the earths atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere o Between 1/3 and 1/2 of earths surface was changed by humans o Carbon dioxide levels increased 30% since industrial revolution o Atmospheric nitrogen mostly caused by humanity and not by natural terrestrial sources o Health reproductions of amphibians are damaged by ultraviolet light o The declining of various amphibians and animals should be a clear indication of environmental threats to human health - Todays environmental degradation is rapidly an unprecedented global crisis o Caused by population growth and industrialization - In the past 100 years... o Manufacturing increased o Use of fossil fuels increased o Number of automobiles o Production of synthetic chemicals - In 150 years... o We have 30% concentration of carbon dioxide o Ozone destroying chlorofluorocarbons - Human made emissions have led us to acid rain Human and Ecosystem Health Life Support: The Environment and Human Health - Biologists and ecologists have an idea where the human health reflects the health of a complex ecosystem - Some believe humans dominate nature - Some believe that the harmful things humans do to the environment can undo itself with the help of technology - We avoid talking about the global change we are experiencing because it may be too frightening or overwhelming - Some believe we are experiencing global warmings effects as we speak - Science has proven that the earth is warming, and GHG are part of the cause - Political leadership have begun to seek solutions to the global issues of climate change Health and the Environment - New health effects are arising and could possibly be directly from climate change or indirectly o Prevalence of malaria has increased worldwide, but no link to climate change was made o Funding the science to see whether certain health effects are caused by climate change can be quite costly - Environmental Degradation o Imbalance between population and resources o Increases cost and development o Extends prolonged poverty - Some poor people are forced out of their lands to country sides where they suffer from natural causes such as droughts and floods. - Serious environmental problems are often unknown or unrecognized - Change in natural systems may be sudden and nonlinear - Medical waste incineration is a major source of dioxin and mercury released into the environment Page 10 12 Physicians and Public Health Professionals Life Support: The Environment and Human Health - Physicians need to look at a number of things when a patient exposed to toxic exposure... o Nature/duration of patients exposure o Degree of potential health threat it poses o Extent of the risk to the patient/community o Even though these skills are important, many medical students lack in studying them - We need to change our way of thinking toward creating health, not curing disease - We need to learn the connections between health and environment Solutions - How can we promote health? o Stop further environmental degradation, by... Change policies that control pollution Prevent generation of pollution and environmental damage in the first place o Change relationship between developed and developing countries, by... New strategies for transferring technologies while minimizing the destruction of resources and the generation of pollutants o Promoting the education of environment and promotion of health No matter what occupation, you must understand the environmental issues in relation to health and the quality of life Chapter 2: Urban and Transboundary Air Pollution - Recognition of the relationship between exposure to air pollutants and respiratory illness dates back to the sixteenth century and description of respiratory disease in miners - Much of what we currently understand about environmental lung disease derives from the study of exposed workers since the Industrial Revolution - Later in the industrial nations of Europe and North America, whole communities were engulfed in air pollutants, resulting in serious illness and death among individuals with cardiopulmonary disease Life Support: The Environment and Human Health - These air pollution emergencies were caused by air stagnation, which resulted in greatly increased concentrations of atmospheric pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide and suspended particulates - After these air pollution problems, more attention has been placed on the health effects of air pollution. We face a crisis in worldwide air pollution today because of a few reasons. - First, since the atmosphere is dynamic and always changing, contaminants are transported (sometimes over thousands of miles), diluted, precipitated, and transformed. Air pollution therefore knows no boundaries or national borders - Second, many cities in developing nations and in Eastern Europe are experiencing uncontrolled industrial expansion, increasing motor vehicle numbers and congestion, and pollution caused by fuels used for cooking and heating - A 1988 study between air pollution and wealth reported that poorer countries (relying heavily on coal) had significantly higher levels of total suspended particulates (TSPs) than wealthier nations - Third, in nations that have reduced the primary emissions from heavy industry, power plants, and automobiles, new problems have arisen from pollution by newer industries and from air pollution caused by secondary formation of acids and ozone - Finally damage to ecosystems and agriculture from acid rain, damage to building and artwork, and reduced visibility are all attributable to air pollution Defining Adverse Health Effects - Any effect that results in altered structure or impaired function or that represents the beginning of a sequence of events leading to altered structure or function is considered an adverse health effect Sulfur Dioxide and Acidic Aerosols - Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is produced by the combustion of sulfur contained in fossil fuels, such as coal and crude oil - The sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere does not remain gaseous. It undergoes chemical reaction with water, metals, and other pollutants to form aerosols - Sulfur dioxide and other products of fossil fuel combustion forms the heavy urban pollution in many cities in developing nations today by mainly burning coal - Smog a descriptive term generically referring to the visibly cloudy combination of smoke and fog - Two measures of air acidity showered significant effects: o Higher particle acidity was significantly associated with an increased risk of bronchitis o Higher levels of gaseous acids were significantly associated with the risk of asthma - Acidic aerosols result in acid rain which may threaten aquatic life - Patients with asthma are very sensitive to the bronchoconstrictive effects of SO2 and react to much lower levels compared to normal people Particulates
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