What is Environmental health?
Environmental health is a branch of public health concerned with monitoring those factors that affect human health. When environmental health terms come into the mind of the people then everyone thinks about clean air and water only, but natural environmental forces include water, air, soil, and global warming. It was defined in a 1989 document by the WHO. Global warming and air play a major role in environmental health. This is the public health field that addresses those physical, chemical, and biological factors that we might not have direct control over, but they affect the health sideways. In simple terms, we can say that what our homes were built with, what types of insects or other creatures live nearby, and what food we are eating all can affect our health. Environmental health is dealt with all the different ways that the world around us can impact our physical and mental well-being. This is the largest field within public health. This is because external forces can impact how we eat, live, and grow. These all factors together impact human health.
Environmental health and quality of life
This environment affects our health every moment of every day. This all depends on what we eat, where we live, and how we interact with the environment. This directly or indirectly affects the quality of life. This is a broad term or concept which is concerned with human well-being in society. Quality of life for health traditionally includes physical, psychological, and social aspects. But in recent years the environment also has been identified as an important part of life. This environment is also responsible for the ill effects on the health in both manners physical as well as psychological. It affects the quality of life because of a bad environment due to any cause. A bad environment decreases the quality of life of the individual in any aspect because poor environmental quality has a great impact on the health status of the individual.
Benefits of environmental health
Environmental health plays a very crucial role in the health of the individual. Maintaining a healthy environment is very much important for helping people to live longer and also for enhancing their quality of life. By optimizing environmental health, we can reduce exposure to diseases. Also, we can reduce the pollutants that have a toxic effect on the body.
Disciplines of environmental health
There are five disciplines in the field of environmental health i.e. environmental epidemiology, toxicology, exposure science, environmental engineering, and environmental law.
1. Environmental epidemiology
This branch studies the relationship between environmental exposures and human health. Environmental exposure includes chemicals, radiation, microbiological agents, etc. In this branch, professionals observe the toxic exposures in the environment that deteriorate the health of the people. This experimental study has limitations because this discipline directly observes the ill effects on human health rather than estimating the effects from animal studies. In general, this is the study of the effect on human health of physical, biological, and chemical factors in the external environment.
This study is based on how environmental exposures lead to specific health problems, generally in animals to understand possible health outcomes in humans. This discipline has the advantage of being able to conduct randomized controlled trials.
3. Exposure science
This discipline studies human exposure to environmental contaminants by identifying and quantifying the exposures. This type of discipline better describes the environmental exposures that may lead to particular health problems or can be used in a risk assessment to determine the level of damage through environmental contaminants. This type of study has the advantage of being able to very accurately quantify the exposures to specific chemicals. But exposure science does not generate any information about health problems like environmental epidemiology or toxicology do.
4. Environmental engineering
This discipline applies scientific and engineering principles for the protection of human populations from the effects of adverse environmental factors. Environmental engineering works on the protection of the environment from potentially deleterious effects of natural and human activities.
5. Environmental law
This discipline includes the network of treaties, statutes, regulations, common and customary laws addressing the effects of activities of humans on the natural environment. Information from Toxicology, exposure science, and environmental epidemiology can be combined to generate a risk assessment for specific chemicals, a mixture of chemicals, or other risk factors to determine whether these exposures gives significant risk to human health or not and the actions of environmental engineering and environmental law can be combined to minimize, and monitor the risk factors and also manage the impact of exposure to protect human health.
Effects of bad environmental health on human health
A number of environmental factors can impact the health of humans and wellness. These factors include chemical pollution, air pollution, climate change, disease-causing microbes, poor water quality.
- Chemical pollution: Different chemicals impact human health in different manners. Exposure to dangerous substances creates health vulnerabilities. Common chemical pollutants include pesticides and herbicides. Some volatile organics such as benzene, toluene, chloroform, etc. This is the main concern about digestive problems.
- Air pollution: This is the main concern of environmental health nowadays. It is the biggest environmental risk for respiratory problems. Some of the harmful air pollutants are nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. which further leads to the depletion of the Ozone layer. These air pollutants damage the lining of the respiratory pathway. Air pollution is caused by many factors such as the burning of fossil fuels, industrial emission, wildfire, microbial decaying process, vehicle emission (most common cause nowadays), etc.
- Climate change: This change affects the social and environmental determinants of health. With every passing time, this climate change is becoming the biggest health threat to the health of humans. The main reason for this climate change is air pollution. Global warming is a matter of great concern for environmental health professionals. This affects the Ozone layer in the environment.
- Disease-causing microbes: There are a variety of microbes present in this environment. Many of them are capable of infecting humans and causing disease. Humans are continually exposed to many microbes in the environment and only a few microbes are capable of interacting with the host in such a manner that infection and disease will result. This is all because of the unhygienic surrounding environment.
- Water pollution: In today’s time, many people don’t have access to clean drinking water, about ⅓ of the population lacks access to proper sanitation services. Poor water quality is responsible for many deaths worldwide. This is all because of chemicals, factory waste products that flow in the rivers, lack of access to proper water treatment and sanitation, outdated plumbing infrastructure, etc.
Ill health effects of the deprived state of environmental health
All the organisms in this world depend on their environment for energy and materials that are needed to sustain life. These all depend on clean air, sterile water, chemical-free soil, and hygienic surroundings. If these factors get polluted or contaminated then the diseases can occur according to the deprived factor.
- Air pollution: If the air is polluted then people will suffer from cough, cold, asthma, bronchitis, COPD, lung cancer, neurological problems due to inhalation of polluted air, etc.
- Water pollution: If the water gets polluted then people will suffer from diarrhea, constipation, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, polio, gastroenteritis, gastritis, pancreatitis, etc.
- Chemical pollution: These chemicals pollute the land or soil through waste disposal, air deposition, contact with a contaminated surface or ground waters, and if farming is done at that place then it gives a lot of damage to health. Exposure to chemicals will lead to the problems such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, eye irritations, coughing, lung problems, cancer, mental problems, etc.
Ways to minimize the deprived state of environmental health
There are many methods that help to minimize the deprived state of environmental health. Some of the measures are as follows
1. Improve the quality standards for water
We must improve the quality of water because there is no best alternative to water in this world. Water helps us in many ways to keep us healthy. The quality of water is improved by the following methods:
- The source of water must be known
- Use limited water for use
- Check the water pipes at regular intervals of time
- Sanitization should be done
- Regular checks on water impurities
- The storage area of the water should be cleaned and have regular checks on the hygiene
- Filtration should be done
- Avoid throwing drains into the water
- Avoid industrialization near water sources
2. Proper drainage of waste
If proper drainage of the waste products is done then it will automatically minimize the deprived state of environmental health because the improper system of drainage causes water and soil pollution. General measures for drainage and sewage systems are:
- The drainage system should be closed and all the drains should be periodically checked and cleaning should be done
- The drainage and sewage system of the hospital should be connected with municipal sewage
- Routine check for clogged pipes
3. Natural ways of farming
Organic farming is the best method to control soil pollution and also improve the quality of food. Organic fertilizers and manures such as cow dung are used and added to farmlands for better farming. Decomposition of organic matter by microbes and earthworms is encouraged and this will gradually add nutrition to the soil over the period. Avoid using chemical fertilizers in farming as it will give hazardous effects on the health.
4. Reduce deforestation and improve plantations
This is the most important part to save the environment from hazardous effects. Reforestation should be done to restore the existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted through deforestation.
5. Improve air quality
As we already discussed, global warming is the major concern in today’s time and this is caused due to air pollution. So it becomes very important to improve the air quality to live a disease-free life. We can improve the air quality by the following measures:
- Improving plantation (most important part to improve the quality of air)
- Avoid deforestation
- Use non-conventional sources of energy like wind, solar energy, biomass, etc
- Vehicle pollution can be reduced by choosing public transport rather than personal vehicles
- Avoid excessive idling of automobiles
The above measures minimize the deprived state of environmental health. The most important measures to keep in mind that planting more trees, avoiding throwing the waste into the water resources, avoiding excessive idling of automobiles
There are some moral ethics that everyone should adopt in their life to prevent damage to the environment. One should teach their children how important this environment is for us. We should teach our children that we can only survive in this world if our environment is healthy. Encourage the youngsters to plant at least one tree in their life. So it is very important to reduce the pollution in the environment for a better future and for a better life.
Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.