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More on Environmental Health

General Resources

More on Environmental Health

What is Environmental Health?

Environmental Health is the intersection of human health, including quality of life, with physical, chemical, biological, and social factors in the environment. In other words, it is how the natural environment and the environment that we humans have created impact our health. Some well known examples of environmental health issues are the impact of air pollution on asthma, of nutrition on cancer, and of lead on neurological development.

What do Environmental Health Scientists Study?

Research in environmental health aims to determine how a substance in the environment (e.g. lead, mercury, secondhand smoke, air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, contaminated food, asbestos, pesticides) may harm humans.  Scientists also investigate the consequences of exposure to these hazards, as well as interventions to reduce exposure and to alleviate the effects of the exposures. Researchers aim to find the sources of hazardous substances, how they move through natural ecosystems, how they get into our bodies, and how they interact with the biological molecules that control our bodies.

Environmental factors often act as triggers for disease in people who have a genetic predisposition. The interaction of the environment with individual differences in genetics and other factors such as age, socioeconomic status and gender is also being studied by environmental scientists in order to gain a greater understanding of the disease processes and to determine which populations have the greatest risk of exposure and disease.

Why study Environmental Health in the K-12 classroom?

The environmental health sciences pose complex and engaging questions that can be approached from the perspective of many disciplines. Examining how our interactions with environmental agents affect human health can include learning goals from language arts, social studies, mathematics, as well as science and health. Students appreciate the relevance of the material while teachers can address existing educational standards.

Examples of Human Environmental Health Issues

•Acid rain • Agricultural pesticides • Air pollution • Allergies • Alternative fuels • Artificial sweeteners • Asbestos • Asthma • Birth defects • Cancer • Cosmetic & shampoo ingredients • Dry cleaning chemicals • Electric & magnetic fields • Environmental estrogens • Environmental justice • Food additives • Food-born illness • Gasoline additives • Hazardous chemicals • Herbicides • Household toxins • Landfills • Lead poisoning • Legionnaire's disease • Light pollution • Lyme disease • Mercury poisoning • Molds • Noise pollution • Ozone depletion/global warming • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) • Pfiesteria • Phthalates • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) • Radiation • Radon • Sewage treatment • Tobacco & smoking • Toxoplasmosis • Trash/waste removal • Ultraviolet light (UVA) • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) • Water pollution • West Nile Virus

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