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A Look At The Effects of the Environment on Public Health

  • May 18, 2024
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A Look At The Effects of the Environment on Public Health

When it comes to the effects of the environment on public health, environmental factors can have a dramatic impact on the physical well-being of the global population. 

Environmental pollutants – such as air, soil, noise, water, and radioactive pollution – are especially instrumental when considering the environmental determinants of public health. 

Unhealthy, polluted environments can have a dire effect on our collective health and well-being, with 24% of deaths worldwide being attributed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to environmental factors. 

This places increasing pressure on the healthcare system, leading us to call for a greater number of licensed medical practitioners – such as doctors and nurses who have completed qualifications such as family nurse practitioner online programs.

Let’s discuss. 

The 5 Main Types of Environmental Pollution and Their Effects on Public Health

There are many different types of environmental pollution, which each have different effects on public health. They include: 

Air Pollution

Atmospheric pollution of the air we breathe. Needless to say, it’s toxic. 

Air pollution is caused by the chemicals and toxic gases that are released into the atmosphere – mostly due to what is known as ‘large-scale human activities.’ These are activities that are commonly associated with the use of industrial machinery in factories and construction sites, as well as the toxic chemical fumes that are released by motor vehicles. 

So, what’s the effect of air pollution on public health? In truth, the consequences are dire – polluted air can increase our likelihood of developing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cause skin irritation and disease, and may even expose us to an increased risk of developing cancer.  

Water Pollution

Water pollution is most commonly linked to ineffective sewerage treatment and sanitation, and improper disposal of wastewater. It can also be caused by oil spills and other toxic industrial effluents

The impact? Not only is the pool of safe drinking water dramatically reduced, but being exposed to polluted water can cause humans to develop life-threatening water-borne diseases. UNESCO’s 2021 World Water Development Report found that as many as 829,000 people die every year after consuming unsanitary drinking water and developing diarrhea and other diseases.  

Soil Pollution

Also referred to as soil contamination, polluted soil can be a by-product of acid rain caused by polluted air. It can also be caused by improper disposal of toxic waste, and also, excessive usage of farming agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. Radioactive waste can also contaminate soil.

So what effect does soil pollution have on public health? Growing food in contaminated soil can cause illness and disease in the individuals who consume it. How? Plants will absorb the toxic chemicals that are found in the soil they’re growing in. Even if humans aren’t directly consuming these plants, contamination will carry up the food chain via the grazing animals – such as cattle – that we consume as protein sources.

Noise Pollution

It may sound surprising that noise pollution can affect our physical well-being. After all, it’s just loud sounds, isn’t it? 

By loud sounds, we don’t mean just attending a local rave or dance party. Noise pollution caused by loud sounds is most often associated with heavy machinery and other industrial or manufacturing sounds. It can also refer to construction noise, as well as noise associated with heavy vehicles such as airplanes and jets. 

So, is noise pollution detrimental to public health? In a sense, yes. Sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss, and even deafness in some cases. The result of course depends on the duration and frequency of exposure to the noise pollution: individuals exposed to excessively loud noise for more than 8 hours commonly experience negative impacts on their ability to hear.

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Environmental factors can have a huge impact on public health. Pollutants of the environment around us – such as in the air we breathe, the water we consume, the soil we grow our food in, and yes, even the noises we are exposed to – can affect our well-being immensely. From developing air-borne and water-borne diseases to being exposed to the risk of contamination and even, hearing loss, the nature of our environment can determine how healthy we are. 

The solution? Developing measures to counteract our pollution of the environment, and reduce our carbon footprint. 

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