There are so many reasons to take care of the world’s environment that the list can go on and on and make your head spin — from pollution and soil degradation, to animal welfare, food quality, rising water levels and more, there is much to think about when it comes to the planet’s natural resources.
However, if you want to educate yourself, those around you, and the world at large, it’s also important to be aware of how environmental issues can affect us on a very personal level: our health. After all, making others aware of the adverse effects they and their families may experience when the environment is damaged can be one of the best ways to encourage and inspire people to take action and make a difference.
Whether you decide to take up further studies through a university or private online provider, or just want to read as many books and articles as you can, it pays to know some of the main ways that human (and animal) health can be affected by hazards in the environment, and what we can do about it. Read on for two major issues to be aware of today.
The quality of the air we breathe can have a big effect on health, and is something that governments, health organizations, urban planners, and others are looking into more and more these days. While air pollution can be caused by naturally-occurring phenomena like climactic variations, wildfires, and dust, the greatest contributing factor today is actually man-made impacts. In particular, human reliance on fossil fuels and heavy industry, as well as methane build-up from waste, agriculture, and various man-made processes, is causing a significant amount of air pollution.
Many negative health impacts have been shown to be caused by air pollution, particularly in urban populations. While most studies show that issues occur due to prolonged exposure to pollutants in the air, it also seems that acute health impacts (such as asthma attacks) can come about because of short exposure.
Some of the negative health outcomes that can arise from exposure to pollution include everything from watering eyes, wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing, through to serious respiratory and cardiovascular illness, heart attacks, shortened life span, and cancer.
Pollution control is a matter being examined and worked on by many agencies and other organizations. At the end of the day though, major reductions will come about from an emphasis on cleaner production activities and less burning of fossil fuels, at both a micro and macro level.
While most Western countries are fortunate enough to have plenty of access to drinking water for their citizens, it is important to be aware that the quality of this water may not be as pure as we’d like to think. In fact, due to nutrient pollution in ground water — which is what millions of people in the United States and elsewhere use as their primary drinking water source — many humans are ingesting harmful toxins and compounds which can be an issue even at low levels.
The water quality in a community can be affected significantly by land use and land-management practices, as well as water-treatment processes. Water can become polluted with chemicals, germs, and toxic algae.
Contamination of water supplies can occur because of:
- Fertilizers, pesticides, animal-feeding operations, and other agricultural practices
- Manufacturing processes
- Leaky storage tanks and malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems
- Industrial dumping
- Sewer overflows
- Corroded piles leaching lead
Stormwater runoff often carries contaminants into lakes, rivers and reservoirs which act as drinking-water sources for lots of people.
Drinking water that contains various toxins has been linked to many different health risks and issues. Infants, in particular, can become seriously ill and even die due to contaminated water. As well, people are at risk of developing rashes, reproductive disorders, respiratory problems, stomach or liver illness, neurological problems, developmental issues, cardiovascular and kidney diseases, deafness, and cancer.
While reducing the use of chemicals and the leakage of contaminants into water supplies is something that governments, businesses, industry bodies and other organizations continually work towards (and there are many laws in place to help combat the issue), individuals can also take action.
It pays, for instance, to ensure that chemicals, medicines, oils, paints, and other potentially toxic compounds are not put down drains. As well, people should be mindful of using pesticides and fertilizers which can runoff into nearby water sources. Trash should be properly disposed of so as to not get into bodies of water, and environmentally-safe cleaning items should be utilized at all times.