6.6 Chapter Resources


Environmental health is concerned with preventing disease, death and disability by reducing exposure to adverse environmental conditions and promoting behavioral change. It focuses on the direct and indirect causes of diseases and injuries, and taps resources inside and outside the health care system to help improve health outcomes. Environmental health risks can be grouped into two broad categories. Traditional hazards related to poverty and lack of development affect developing countries and poor people most. Modern hazards, caused by development that lacks environmental safeguards,  such as urban (outdoor) air pollution and exposure to agro-industrial chemicals and waste, prevail in industrialized countries, where exposure to traditional hazards is low. Each year contaminated water and poor sanitation contribute to 5.4 billion cases of diarrhea worldwide and 1.6 million deaths, mostly among children under the age of five. Indoor air pollution—a much less publicized source of poor health—is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths per year and for 2.7 percent of global burden of disease.

Emerging and reemerging diseases have been defined as infectious diseases of humans whose occurrence during the past two decades has substantially increased or threatens to increase in the near future relative to populations affected, geographic distribution, or magnitude of impacts. Antibiotic resistance is a global problem. New forms of antibiotic resistance can cross international boundaries and spread between continents. Environmental toxicology is the scientific study of the health effects associated with exposure to toxic chemicals and systems occurring in the natural, work, and living environments; the management of environmental toxins and toxicity; and the development of protections for humans, animals, and plants. Environmental contaminants are chemicals found in the environment in amounts higher than what would be there naturally. We can be exposed to these contaminants from a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial sources.

Review Questions

  1. Define environmental health.
  2. Define the following terms: carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, endocrine disruptor.
  3. Describe the difference between acute and chronic effect.
  4. Give two examples of emerging diseases.
  5. Define modern hazards.
  6. What are the three main routes of exposure a chemical can get into our body?
  7. What are the two types of mercury people are usually exposed to?


EPA. (n.d.). Attachment 6: Useful terms and definitions for explaining risk. Accessed August 31, 2015 at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/community/pdfs/toolkit/risk_communication-attachment6.pdf. Modified from original.

OSHA. (n.d.). Understanding chemical hazards. Accessed August 25, 2015 fromhttps://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy11/sh-22240-11/ChemicalHazards.pdf. Modified from original.

Theis, T. & Tomkin, J. (Eds.). (2015). Sustainability: A comprehensive foundation. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/contents/1741effd-9cda-4b2b-a91e-003e6f587263@43.5. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.

University of California College Prep. (2012). AP environmental science. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/col10548/1.2/. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.

World Bank. (2003). Environmental health. Washington, DC. World Bank. Retrieved from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/9734. Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0). Modified from Original.

World Bank. (2008). Environmental health and child survival : Epidemiology, economics, experiences. Washington, DC: World Bank. World Bank. Retrieved from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/6534. Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0).  Modified from original.

World Bank. (2009). Environmental health and child survival. Retrieved from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/11719. Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0).  Modified from original.


Page attribution: Essentials of Environmental Science by Kamala Doršner is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Modified from the original.


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Environmental Biology Copyright © 2017 by Matthew R. Fisher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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