Environmental Health 101: Main Issues, Projects, and Job Options
When people hear about the environmental health field, most of them are unsurprisingly confused. While we do know what the environment is and what health is – separately – we rarely see the two words linked together. The reason why many people haven’t heard of environmental health is because caring for the environment is often discussed as a matter of caring for something “out there.”
However, we cannot ignore the environment and the intimate link to our well-being. Community pollution and cancer clusters, air pollution and asthma, toxic chemicals and infertility – the environmental health movement fights against all of these issues.
Environmental Health 101
Over the past few decades, scientists have discovered that daily exposure to toxic chemicals has a dreadful impact on humans and increases the risk of serious health problems. However, the good news is that educating ourselves about these harmful chemicals means that we can learn to stay away from them.
Some of the health problems most often connected to environmental conditions are cancer, autism, ADHD, early puberty, trouble conceiving, and general learning and developmental disabilities. Scientists have linked toxic chemicals to the growing incidence of these health issues in the United States.
In conclusion, harmful chemicals follow us everywhere, in our homes, workplaces, parks, in our food, air, water, electronics and cosmetics. To make matters worse, marketers often advertise products whose impact on human health is unknown.
In communities and cities where toxins are at home and pollution is everywhere, scientists have noticed various patterns of negative health impacts. However, it’s quite difficult to track the impact of exposure, given that all of us are exposed in some degree or another. Also, individuals is unique, which means we respond differently to the daily dose of chemicals we are exposed to.
Toxins in the Home
Firstly, one of the easiest ways to reduce our exposure to chemicals is to control what we use in our homes. We might not have a say in what goes on in the workplace or in public parks, but our home is under our control. So here are some toxins that you should avoid and the alternatives you can use.
It’s one of the most common chemicals in your house. Fragrance is used in fabric softeners, laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectants, deodorizers, hair sprays, shampoos, lotions, gels, sunscreens, soaps, perfumes, scented candles and more. Bottom line, fragrance is a term that describes hundreds of carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, and endocrine disrupters.
What You Should Use Instead: Whenever it’s possible, take the unscented route, especially when it comes to soaps and detergents. Get rid of air fresheners and deodorizers. They don’t clean or disinfect the air, but spray hazardous chemicals into the air you breathe. Freshen up a room by using better ventilation and a bowl of baking soda or white vinegar.
Some disinfectants do the complete opposite – instead of cleaning, they contaminate our air with carcinogen chemicals. Scientists have proved that ammonia, for example, trigger asthma attacks, as well as respiratory damage.
What You Should Use Instead: Make your own green cleaning products (check out this article on how to do it). It doesn’t just save you money, but it also efficiently kills up to 90 percent of bacteria and many spores.
Some toothpastes and most antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical. Health experts believe it can disrupt thyroid function and mess with hormone levels in people. Overusing antibacterial soaps can promote the growth of “super bacteria,” resistant to antibacterial treatment.
What You Should Use Instead: Do not worry. Warm water and good old-fashioned soap kills just as many germs as antibacterial soap. Whenever possible, avoid using hand sanitizers.
Main Environmental Health Projects
Even though many might not be aware of the environmental health field, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people working to keep us safer each day.
The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, is one of the most adamant promoters of environmental health. Some of the issues it tackles around the globe are indoor air pollution, chemical safety, environmental health in emergencies, and outdoor air pollution, to name a few.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has a specific mission: To discover how the environment affects people and to promote healthier lifestyles. It is just one of 27 research centers and institutes that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The Environmental Health Project (EHP) is a nonprofit public health organization with a dedicated team. Medical professionals, public health scientists, and community service professionals work together to better our connection to the environment. They help U.S. communities by providing exams and consultations, helping clients navigate the health care system, and inform the public about the existing risks.
Environmental Career Options
Given the expansion of the field, students can pursue a career in environmental health by partnering with government agencies. The private sector is also hiring, as well as schools and universities. You can become an environmental scientist, environmental science and protection technician, or postsecondary environmental health teacher.
Working alongside research scientists, environmental specialists make sure communities and companies follow the policies. They also evaluate the overall results. Community liaison officers, compliance experts, and directors of public health work together to create outreach programs to build public awareness of environmental issues.
Other career opportunities allow environmental health professionals to inspect and investigate regions. Their job is to establish procedures that secure the health of public, air, water and soil.
Environmental Science and Protection Technician
As an environmental science and protection technician, you will work with private companies and consulting firms. As environmental regulations become more stringent, many multinationals realize they need someone to help solve their problems. A protection technician can offer advice to decrease environmental impact.
Many previous practices no longer meet current regulations. Therefore, you might work as a full-time environmental consultant to help companies establish strategies. As an environmental scientists, you will keep the business be profitable, as well as environmentally friendly.
There are many applications of environmental health in the public and private sector. We just need to educate ourselves on the matter and become more responsible in our lifestyles. You can start at home – and then maybe you can make a change in your community.