Environmental health practitioners are dedicated to protecting public health by monitoring and recommending solutions to reduce pollution levels. Specialists from this field focus on air, soil, water, hazardous waste, noise and radiological pollutions. Because of these professionals, the world and the people who live in it are helped to live healthily and happily. Below, we describe the issues that are examined by these specialists.
The air we breathe
Air quality experts monitor allergens, mold and toxins in the air. These can be generated by industrial businesses, vehicles and agricultural operations. This is a major concern, considering that 90% of the people around the world breathe polluted air. Because of this prevalence, governments sites like AirNow provide an Air Quality Index (AQI) so you can tell “how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, along with associated health effects that may be of concern.”
The soil we grow with
Soil specialists focus on risk assessment of land contaminated by manufacturing processes, farming, garbage and other hazardous waste. While anyone is susceptible to soil pollution, its effects may vary based on age, general health status and other factors, such as the type of pollutant or contaminant inhaled or ingested. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, soil is essential to providing food for 95% of the world, so its pollution both reduces the quantity and quality of crops and produce, but it also worsens poverty and compromises the future for generations to come.
The water we drink
Water specialists “observe the presence of toxic chemicals and biological agents in the water and may pose a threat to human health and/or the environment…this may consist of chemicals introduced into the water bodies as a result of various human activities.” A modern example is the Flint Water Crisis; the city of Flint, Michigan has been afflicted by a toxic amount of lead in the drinking water.
The trash we create
Hazardous and solid waste professionals look for ways to minimize waste production, safely move and dispose of waste and, when necessary, expedite clean up of spilled waste. Recently, Target settled allegations for improperly disposing hazardous waste into landfills which included electronics, batteries, aerosol cans, compact fluorescent light bulbs and medical waste. In the US, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes sure that this waste won’t harm humans or animals.
The noise we hear
Noise abatement specialists protect our quality of life and our hearing by enforcing limits on ambient noise from vehicles, airports, construction sites or music venues. Why the big deal with noise? Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss. Luckily, the EPA takes steps, as it does with all types of pollutions, to make sure that the population isn’t as affected by it.
The hazard we can’t see
Radiological assessors monitor radiation levels from power plants, medical and other x-ray equipment and natural sources. Mercury, for example, is a natural element that is especially dangerous. In the past, it was used as a medicine that was supposed to “cure” various ailments. Now, it’s a well-known risk to both humans and wildlife.
With pollution issues like these, it’s important that there are environmental health practitioners to keep the earth and its people healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other environmental health careers? Check out the career profile here.