“It is our collective and individual responsibility…to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live” – Dalai Lama
There exists constant interactivity between humans and a wide range of environmental factors. These interactions play a major role in affecting our health and quality of life. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the environment in relation to human health is “all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviors.”
The Healthy People 2020 Environmental Health focuses on six primary themes, highlighting key elements of environmental health. These include:
- Ground water and surface quality
- Homes and communities
- Quality of outdoor air
- Hazardous wastes and toxic substances
- Infrastructure, surveillance, etc.
- Global environmental health
To create a healthy environment, it is important to understand how hazardous environmental factors can potentially harm human health and wellbeing.
Importance of Environmental Health
Human wellbeing and environmental health are intrinsically associated – improving quality of life and mortality rate. According to a study, 26% of deaths in children below 5 years and 23% of all deaths are caused due to environmental factors. Inability to maintain a high quality of environmental wellbeing has a direct impact on individuals with “compromised” health.
And why just humans! Poor environmental health also has a major impact on our natural resources and the society at large. Therefore, it is crucial to address the potentially risky environmental factors that accentuate the likelihood of human exposure and poor health.
5 Environmental Factors Affecting Human Health
For overall human health and wellbeing, environment matters. It is crucial for all environmental factors to be well-balanced to ensure we live a healthy, prosperous and contended life. However, there are several environmental elements that people need prevent to remain healthy and improve their quality of life. Let’s check out:
1. Water Pollution
Do you know that on average 1 in 10 people do not have basic accessibility to safe drinking water?
The current UN World Water Development Report warns that “climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water needed for basic human needs, thus, undermining enjoyment of the basic rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for billions of people.”
Water quality is greatly impacted by higher water temperatures and a decline in dissolved oxygen today. This has resulted in a decrease in freshwater basins’ capacity to self-purify. Furthermore, high levels of pollutants, pathogen contamination caused due to floods, plastic pollution, etc. are significantly affecting the quality of water.
As a consequence, 2.2 billion people today have no access to “safely managed drinking water.” Water pollution has led to an increased quantity of harmful contaminants, including aluminium, lead, copper and chromium. Additionally, even trace amounts of arsenic, barium or cadmium in drinking water can result into prolonged illnesses.
2. Quality of Air
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 7 million deaths occur worldwide every year due to air pollution. Data reveals that “9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.”
Ambient air pollution, in addition to smoke and other pollutants inside the home, is the primary cause behind premature deaths and ecological imbalance. Mortality rate has increased considerably as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, acute respiratory infections, heart disease and even lung cancer.
According to an article published in NCBI, air pollution is regarded as one of the major environmental factors in the incidence and progression of some diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, ventricular hypertrophy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, psychological complications, autism, retinopathy, foetal growth and low birth weight.”
Therefore, proper measures should be taken to ensure you are able to cope with the consequences of air pollution, especially if you live in a highly industrialised area or cities with smog alerts such as Delhi.
Do you live in an industrial area where asbestos is being used widely? If yes, it is time for you to consider relocating to a potentially asbestos-free region. Most industries, particularly construction, commonly use asbestos as it is resistant to heat, water, and fire. Producing asbestos is also inexpensive.
However, it is one of the most hazardous environmental factors inhaling which may result into a wide range of illnesses in human beings and animals. The fibres from asbestos are inhaled easily, reaching the lower regions of our lungs. Over prolonged exposure, this can result in fibrotic lung disease and can also cause changes in the chest cavity’s lining. Such diseases can affect your respiratory functions and even cause death.
Asbestos fibres also heighten the risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer. Since lungs are affected due to asbestosis, it can cause increased blood-flow resistance and enlargement of the heart as a result.
4. Homes and Communities
While homes and communities cannot be considered as direct environmental hazards but these are known to expose people to several conditions that affect their health and wellbeing. These include structural problems, indoor air pollution, noise pollution, fire and electrical hazards, improper sanitation and heating, paint hazards caused from paints, etc.
These factors can significantly impact human safety and health. Therefore, it is important to take essential measures to maintain healthy homes and communities that can help improve overall environmental health.
5. Impact of Climate Changes on Human Health
Do you know that the air you breathe is majorly affected by climatic changes? Fast-changing weather patterns and warmer temperatures can degrade air quality significantly, resulting in cardiovascular diseases, asthma and other respiratory problems. According to environmentalists, climatic impact is one of the environmental factors that can pose serious threat to human health and wellbeing.”
Rising temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air also cause a number of allergens which can affect human health. Widespread wildfires are also causing major climatic changes, resulting in smoke and other air pollutants. On the other hand, drought or flood are also known to cause serious heath hazards to human beings.
In addition to the above-mentioned environmental factors, there are numerous other health hazards that you should be aware of and take measures to prevent the same. It is through this approach that you can feel safe and healthy, living a more fulfilling life.