What comes to your mind upon the mention of the word environment? What is it and what is it comprised of? What are your thoughts on environmentalists and would you consider yourself one? If not, does this bother you? For the longest time now, the issue of environment and matters surrounding it has been taken a little bit too lightly. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that many of us have not been in acceptance with the fact that environment is a personal responsibility. It is each and everyones duty to see to a clean and habitable environment. However, this doesnt seem to be the case; we live in a world where we are only concerned with our personal space rather than the environment in general. For some misguided reasons, we tend to think the duty of taking care of the environment belongs to the government, NGOs and other environmental bodies. We seclude ourselves from this noble calling in the name of being too pre-occupied with our personal lives such as work, school among others.
What we forget however, is the fact that these personal lives we happen to pay too much attention to wouldnt be the same if the environment is inhabitable, polluted or chaotic. As a fact, it would be barely possible to experience inner peace and serenity in a polluted environment. They say charity begins at home and since we reside in this same environment, it is home to us. Therefore, the most fulfilling charitable event one could take part in is participating in making the world a better place by preserving our environment. To me, theres no higher calling than that which is beneficial as well. The natural environment is comprised of both living and non-living things that occur naturally on the face of earth. This includes and dictates the interaction of living things with each other and with the other non-living things. In these interactions, there are some benefits and shortcomings affiliated to them. Whereas some interactions are healthy and promote the environment, some are downrightly hazardous and pose as environmental threats that degrade it and ought to be done away with CITATION Chr83 \l 1033 (Park).
This paper is going to investigate the major environmental health hazards and explain the environmental health goals.
Environmental Health Hazards
An environmental health hazard is defined as any substance that is capable of threatening the natural environment as well as adversely affecting peoples health. Environmental health hazards can be categorized into two large groups namely: natural and human-made hazards. Natural hazards are ones we have no control over and are usually very spontaneous in nature. In best case scenario, we can come up with ways of dealing with them once they hit us as opposed to trying to prevent them as this would be mostly futile. This requires us to have an open mind and always be prepared for anything, anytime CITATION Kei04 \l 1033 (Smith). Examples of such include storms, floods and earthquakes. On the other hand, human-made hazards, just as the name suggests are created by man himself. One would wonder why someone would create a hazard that is detrimental to his health and survival.
The reason is; most people are not aware they are creating environmental health hazards in the first place and for the few who know, they overlook the hazards for the sake of generating profits. Secondly, human-made hazards take some time before they can be health threatening hence, people tend to use this time to justify their actions knowing good and well that eventually their actions are wrong CITATION New66 \l 1033 (New England journal of medicine).
Major environmental hazards are of four types:
Chemical Health Hazards
These are simply chemical substances that pose significant threats to the environment. A good example of these chemicals is the Chlorofluorocarbons commonly referred to as CFCs. This chemical in particular plays a key role in the catalytic destruction of the ozone layer. The atomic halogens in CFCs are responsible for depleting the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a region in the earths stratosphere that shields us from potentially harmful UV rays from the sun by absorbing the surplus. By doing so, the ozone layer sees to the right amount of UV rays reaching the earth which is the main source of Vitamin D but only in the right amount.
When CFCs are emitted to the atmosphere, they actively deplete the ozone thinning it to a level it cannot absorb excess UV radiations effectively. These rays reach the atmosphere and pose a health hazard to humans such as: sunburn, skin cancer, cataracts, genetic damage and immune system suppression. Continuous depletion of this layer results to global warming and adverse change in climate CITATION Rho01 \l 1033 (Donald).
Other forms of chemical hazards are oil spillage in the sea causing a change in the ecological niche of the fish and other water creatures hence killing them. Such spillages also make the water unfit for human consumption.
Physical Health Hazards
These are the likes of earthquakes, noise pollution, x-rays, e-wastes among others. With the advancements in technology, new electronic devices are launched every now and then. The old electronics are eventually discarded and are referred to as E-waste. Electronic manufacturing companies have played the better part in degrading the environment by means of the E-wastes. This is because hardly do they reuse their products. In developing countries especially, informal and incomplete processing of the E-wastes pose pollution and health hazards. This is primarily because such countries rarely have laws and regulations concerning E-wastes.
These discarded electronic gadgets contain high amounts of lead and phosphors. These two are heavy metals and are capable of causing serious health problems to the ones exposed to them CITATION EWi90 \l 1033 (Miller and Miller).
Environmental Health Goals
Just as earlier stated, humans interact a lot with the environment. Therefore, for the healthy living of humans, the nature of interactions they have with their environment directly affects the quality of life as well as the number of healthy years lived. For that reason, maintaining a healthy and suitable environment is paramount and significant in improving health standards and uplifting quality of life.
There are a number of bodies in the United States and worldwide that is responsible for maintaining a healthy environment. An example is the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the environmental health goals it promotes include:
Improving the outdoor air quality This is because poor quality of air is affiliated with cancer, premature death and respiratory diseases.
Improving surface and ground water water is essential in the healthy living of humans. Water sources need to be pure and free from contamination.
Reducing the amounts of toxic substances and hazardous wastes in the environment.
Improving global environment health by creating awareness and leading by examples. Besides example is better than precept. My two cents!!
BIBLIOGRAPHY Donald, Rhonda Lucaas. The ozone layer. New York: Children's Press, 2001.
Miller, E Willard and Ruby M Miller. Environmental hazards; radioactive materialsand wastes: a reference handbook. California: Santa Barbara, 1990.
New England journal of medicine. Environmental hazards. Boston: Massachusetts Medical Society, 1966.
Park, Chris C. Environmental hazards. London: Macmillan education, 1983.
Smith, Keith. Environmental hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster. London; New York: Routledge, 2004.
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