Environmental health is the branch of public health that examines the relationship between natural and built environments and human health. It involves evaluating ways to create an environment that fosters wellness and safety for humans, identifying requirements that must be fulfilled for this goal, then taking actions to make certain those requirements are fulfilled.
Environmental health is comprised of several disciplines, such as exposure science, epidemiology, toxicology and engineering. These professionals collaborate to identify potential hazards from exposures, create policies that reduce risk and safeguard people from harm.
Exposure science, which studies the toxicity of chemicals and other agents, is an integral part of protecting people from hazardous materials. Toxicity tests can be conducted on animals’ in vitro systems (cultured cells or cellular components in test tubes) or human volunteers under controlled clinical conditions. The results of these toxicity tests help determine which substances are most hazardous and inform protective actions such as restricting time spent near an area with potentially hazardous contaminants.
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Epidemiologic studies are the term for toxicology tests on humans. They are conducted on populations who have been exposed to hazardous agents in the past, such as workers or residents in contaminated areas. The results of these investigations can be used to identify diseases linked to those exposures, their causes and risk factors.
These toxins can have a variety of health effects, from short-term (acute) issues like heat exhaustion to long-term illnesses like cancer. These may be the direct result of chemical or other agent exposures or indirect ones caused by changes in one’s diet or lifestyle.
Other environmental elements also have an effect on people’s health, such as their lifestyle and resources available to them. For instance, access to clean water and adequate housing are crucial for population wellbeing; similarly, food security within a community plays an integral role in its residents’ wellbeing.
Social environment plays an integral role in shaping one’s behavior and how they relate to others. Social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety for those who lack meaningful connections in their communities.
People living in less-advantaged neighborhoods are likely to have poorer health outcomes than those in more fortunate environments, which can have a major impact on their life satisfaction and capacity for leading healthy lives. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much this disparity is caused by environmental elements.
The environmental health burden of disease is a term often used to describe the amount of suffering people endure due to various environmental health hazards. These could include environmental toxins, communicable disease outbreaks and disaster-induced human health impacts.