Environment & Your Health

The environment affects our health in many ways. Below are some examples for you to learn more about environmental health conditions and solutions for you, your family and your community. Under each heading are a description and a non-comprehensive set of links that will take you to sites that cover subtopics in each category.

Air and Water Pollution

The air we breathe and water we drink affect our health in ways we don’t actively think about. Toxins inhaled or ingested can contribute directly towards ailments like bronchitis and heavy metal poisoning. Pollutants in the environment can also create conditions favorable for the propagation of disease transmitting organisms, and also affect weather patterns negatively affecting issues like crop yield and air quality. Each of these issues impacts our health from multiple angles. To learn more, explore some subtopics below.

Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the reduction in cleanliness of air quality. This can be caused by the release of chemicals into the air—burning gasoline and practicing deforestation can cause this. Air pollution can affect respiratory health, causing issues like asthma and bronchitis.

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Climate Change

Climate change refers to changes in the standard weather patterns of a region or city over a long period of time. This could range from changes in temperature to water currents, affecting issues like crop yields and air quality. These issues have significant direct and indirect impact on individual and population health (i.e. food, disease, water).

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  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Impact of Climate Change on Health provides information on the impact of air pollution on respiratory health.
  • Cuyahoga County Climate Action Plan: A detailed plan of how Cuyahoga County plans to address climate change focusing on five areas: Energy; Land Use; Transportation; Ecosystem and Health. Each section includes data, solutions, resources and a call to action.
  • Cleveland Climate Action Plan: Led by the Office of Sustainability for the city of Cleveland, this plan outlines objectives within the following impact areas: Energy Efficiency & Green Building, Clean Energy, Sustainable Transportation, Clean Water & Vibrant Green Spaces, More Local Food, Less Waste and Cross-Cutting Priorities.

Disease-Transmitting Organisms

Disease-transmitting organisms—also known as vectors—refer to organisms that can transmit pathogens from one infected individual (person or animal) to another. These organisms can propagate serious diseases and are often found in tropical type environments. Vector control is the ability to control these types of organisms and their capacity to transmit disease.

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  • CDC: Zika Virus details current information pertaining to the ZIKA virus.

Health-Promoting Environments

Health-promoting environments refers to the creation of spaces that provide individuals with the resources to live healthy lifestyles. These could range from increasing access to fresh and affordable produce and safe housing to implementing a clean environment and tobacco-free policies. For more information visit the Tasmanian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services website on supportive environments.

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  • Built Environment and Health—part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)—was established in order to create healthy communities and expanding health coverage, working towards the creation of health equity.
  • CDC: Healthy Places is dedicated to providing information regarding healthy environments.
  • GreenCityBlueLake Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH)—it is the sustainability center of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH). The center’s goal is to harmonize metropolitan areas with nature in order to create healthy environments. The center has events and activities for individuals to engage in.

Water Pollution

Water pollution refers to the reduction in cleanliness of water, and our and other organisms ability to consume and live in it. This can be caused by the release of chemicals into the water—oil spills, improper chemical disposal, etc. Water pollution can the health of a number of bodily systems, causing issues like dysentery, cancer, and infertility.

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Food and Nutrition

From farm to table there are multiple environmental components that impact the quality of our food. These pressures, ranging from the farming techniques to food handling materials and methods, can have a dramatic impact on individual's and community's health. In addition, improper waste disposal processes can lead to issues like oil spills and sewage adversely impacting the food systems, enabling the propagation of disease and harming our health and affecting the nutritional quality of our food. To learn more, explore some subtopics below.

Food, Safety and Sanitation

Food safety refers to handling and usage of food in a safe manner. Improper food handling can result in sickness like salmonella poisoning. Sanitation refers to the ability to properly handle and dispose of waste materials ranging from industrial waste management to sewer infrastructure and clean water—drawing an overlap with water pollution.

Resources:

  • CDC: Clean Water provides information of clean water drinking, and issues surrounding it on the federal and local level. 
  • CDC: Sanitation & Hygiene provides information on the impact of sanitation and hygiene on human health
  • Food Safety is a government website dedicated to promoting food safety. It provides information on how to cook safely, as well as how to keep food safe and avoid issues like food poisoning.

Nutrition 

Nutrition is a critical issue for environmental health. Our ability to consume the correct food in appropriate quantities is paramount in terms of maintaining our health.

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Toxicology

Toxicology refers to how environmental exposures can impact human health, such as oil spills. It also refers to things that individuals need to avoid in the environment like BPA free water bottles.

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Cancer

From mining minerals to constructing buildings the environment, the environment and cancer are intrinsically linked. However, this linkage extends outside of the “built” environment to those we create for ourselves, including the nutritional, exercise, and behavioral decisions we make. To learn more, explore some subtopics below.

Cancer Prevention

Cancer Prevention can take place in a variety of different areas. One way this can take place is by altering our relationship with physical environment, this can range from using safer materials for product manufacturing to changing the way we handle and dispose of materials. Another way is to improve lifestyle and well-being by adopting healthier habits such as consuming safe and nutritious foods. By understanding what causes and increases the risk for cancers, individuals and organizations can take measures to help prevent cancer occurrence.

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HPV and Your Health

HPV has been associated with cancer, and unhealthy environments can increase the likelihood of receiving it.

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Sleep

The environment in which we sleep can directly impact its quality, and a lack of sleep has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing cancer.

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