Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health. Other terms that concern or refer to the discipline of environmental health include environmental public health and environmental health and protection.
Environmental health is defined by the World Health Organization as:
Those aspects of the human body human health and disease that are determined by factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing and controlling factors in the environment that can potentially affect health.
Environmental health as used by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, includes both the direct pathological effects of chemicals, radiation and some biological agents, and the effects (often indirect) on health and wellbeing of the broad physical, psychological, social and aesthetic environment which includes housing, urban development, land use and transport.
Environmental health services are defined by the World Health Organization as:
those services which implement environmental health policies through monitoring and control activities. They also carry out that role by promoting the improvement of environmental parameters and by encouraging the use of environmentally friendly and healthy technologies and behaviours. They also have a leading role in developing and suggesting new policy areas.
Environmental health practitioners may be known as sanitarians, public health inspectors, environmental health specialists or environmental health officers. Many states in the United States require that individuals have professional licenses in order to practice environmental health. California state law defines the scope of practice of environmental health as follows:
"Scope of practice in environmental health" means the practice of environmental health by registered environmental health specialists in the public and private sector within the meaning of this article and includes, but is not limited to, organization, management, education, enforcement, consultation, and emergency response for the purpose of prevention of environmental health hazards and the promotion and protection of the public health and the environment in the following areas: food protection; housing; institutional environmental health; land use; community noise control; recreational swimming areas and waters; electromagnetic radiation control; solid, liquid, and hazardous materials management; underground storage tank control; on-site septic systems; vector control; drinking water quality; water sanitation; emergency preparedness; and milk and dairy sanitation.
The environmental health profession had its modern-day roots in the sanitary and public health movement of the United Kingdom. This was epitomized by Sir Edwin Chadwick, who was instrumental in the repeal of the poor laws and was the founding president of the Association of Public Sanitary Inspectors in 1884, which today is the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
- Air quality, including both ambient outdoor air and indoor air quality, which also comprises concerns about environmental tobacco smoke.
- Body art safety, including tattooing, body piercing and permanent cosmetics.
- Climate change and its effects on health.
- Disaster preparedness and response.
- Food safety, including in agriculture, transportation, food processing, wholesale and retail distribution and sale.
- Hazardous materials management, including hazardous waste management, contaminated site remediation, the prevention of leaks from underground storage tanks and the prevention of hazardous materials releases to the environment and responses to emergency situations resulting from such releases.
- Housing, including substandard housing abatement and the inspection of jails and prisons.
- Childhood lead poisoning prevention.
- Land use planning, including smart growth.
- Liquid waste disposal, including city wastewater treatment plants and on-site waste water disposal systems, such as septic tank systems and chemical toilets.
- Medical waste management and disposal.
- Noise pollution control.
- Occupational health and industrial hygiene.
- Radiological health, including exposure to ionizing radiation from X-rays or radioactive isotopes.
- Recreational water illness prevention, including from swimming pools, spas and ocean and freshwater bathing places.
- Safe drinking water.
- Solid waste management, including landfills, recycling facilities, composting and solid waste transfer stations.
- Toxic chemical exposure whether in consumer products, housing, workplaces, air, water or soil.
- Vector control, including the control of mosquitoes, rodents, flies, cockroaches and other animals that may transmit pathogens.
The Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (TEHIP) at the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains a comprehensive toxicology and environmental health web site that includes access to resources produced by TEHIP and by other government agencies and organizations. This web site includes links to databases, bibliographies, tutorials, and other scientific and consumer-oriented resources. TEHIP also is responsible for the Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET®), an integrated system of toxicology and environmental health databases that are available free of charge on the web.
Effects of tobacco harvestingEdit
In some developing countries the production and harvesting of tobacco for human consumption has some financial benefits due to the high demand but also can have huge negative economic impacts. There is the large amount of trees harvested for use in curing the tobacco leaves, it takes on average 2-3 hectares per ton of tobacco to be cured. Where erosion is prevalent the trees being harvested have a negative impact on the productivity of the soil that the crops are grown in. In respects to the individuals involved in the farming process: the high amount of pesticides need to ensure a plentiful crop of tobacco are highly dangerous over time. Tobacco requires much more pesticides and because of that increased number the risk for farmers increases tremendously. The production and harvesting of tobacco have positive economic consequences for the farmers involved in the process but the negative environmental health impacts could be seen as far more important.
There are many environmental health mapping tools.
- TOXMAP is a Geographic Information System (GIS) from the Division of Specialized Information Services of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) that uses maps of the United States to help users visually explore data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory and Superfund Basic Research Programs. TOXMAP is a resource funded by the US Federal Government. TOXMAP's chemical and environmental health information is taken from NLM's Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET) and PubMed, and from other authoritative sources.
- Air Pollution
- British Society for Ecological Medicine (BSEM)
- Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI)
- Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
- Ecological health
- Electromagnetic fields
- Environmental Health Australia
- Environmental Health Perspectives
- Hazardous Substances Data Bank
- Health information management
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM)
- Nightingale's environmental theory
- Noise Pollution
- Public health
- Sick Building Syndrome
- Water Pollution
- Andrew M. Pope and David P. Rall, Editors; Committee on Curriculum Development in Environmental Medicine, Institute of Medicine. (1995). Environmental Medicine: Integrating a Missing Element into Medical Education., National Academies Press.