Environment – an agenda for human health promotion

Health is not just being free from disease or any other abnormality but broadly speaking, it is a condition of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This universally accepted definition of health described that surrounding environment is also utmost important for human health. So, human health is directly corroborated with environmental health. There is constant interaction of human with environment which is also inevitable. Years of healthy life and quality of life are enhanced by maintaining the healthy environment. Environmental factors are responsible for all diseases and about 1/4th disease load. All physical, chemical and biological factors external to human are component part of environment. Environmental factors are affecting humans, animals and plants but current debate is having typically focus on human health.

Global warming is a key physical environmental factor which is changing the global landscape of earth and in future it will cause great famines which ultimately results in higher human deaths. Ionizing radiations, electromagnetic radiations, occupational environment, industrial noise, automobile noise and lot of other physical factors cause the serious nuisance by directly pose the inhabitants.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are discharged in environment by refrigerators, aerosols propellants and plastic manufacturing industries. These CFCs permit the more UV light penetration to earth surface by damaging the ozone layer in the stratosphere.

Among chemical environmental factors only tobacco smoke can be considered largest air born chemical factor which seriously threatening the peoples health. Smoking alone can cause following disorders; Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, mouth cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, esophagus cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, asthma, muscular degeneration, cataracts, stained teeth and gums, periodontal disease, ulcers, paler skin, lower level of vitamin A and erectile dysfunction. Combustion of solid fuels, liquid fuels (liquid petroleum) produce smoke having polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide, benzene, lead, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulates whereas, all of these compounds have serious health risks. Industrial effluents, incineration and fossil fuel combustion discharge oxides of carbon, sulphur and nitrogen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and particulate matter.

With increasing concentration of sulphur dioxide, ozone and other pollutants in the environment, risks of bronchitis, asthma and other lung diseases is also increased. Increased load of particulate matter in industrially populated areas have increased the risk of mortality and morbidity from cardiopulmonary diseases.

Water is also important chemical environmental factors which seriously pose the health issues in humans. Leaching of lead in soft water from the pipes contaminate the water and pose problem of neurological disorders. Chlorination of water was adopted to purify the water but it is reported that chlorination is also posing the threat of cancer. Floride may be added in the water for purification but it caused the mottling of teeth. Extensive application of nitrogenous fertilizers in crop fields causing the accumulation of nitrates in the underground water by leaching of fertilizer components.

Biological environmental factors also having the adverse health concerns are broadly categorized into two types which are as following; directly infective or indirectly infective. Microbial load in drinking water causing numerous disorders or diseases like cholera. Disinfection of water by chlorination proved to be effective but there are still outbreaks occurred occasionally which are causing the waterborne infections.

Waterborne infections are mostly caused by contamination of clean drinking water with soiled water. Water mediated bacteriological contaminations are seriously threatening the humans health. Legionella (gram negative bacteria, this genus comprised of many species) causing several health problems or illnesses which are collectively termed as Legionellosis.

Clinical waste is also posing serious health hazards for the peoples. Clinical waste comprised of human tissues, blood, soiled surgical apparatus, veterinary hospital waste, animal carcass, cotton wool or cotton swabs, cartridges, used syringes and their needles, broken glass pieces, infected discarded sharp instruments, microbiological cultures, infected pathological waste, pharmaceutical products, drugs, patients urine and other clinical wares. Clinical waste have some additional risks relative to household waste, e.g. accidental exposure to broken glass pieces and needles may cause serious infections. Proper disposal and maintenance of hygienic conditions can prevent the health hazards of clinical waste.

There is long list of allergens which can pose health hazards. Some of the allergens are following; Food allergens (milk allergy, egg allergy, wheat allergy, peanut allergy, fish allergy, shellfish allergy, sulfite allergy, soy allergy and casein allergy), Seasonal Allergies (summer allergy, winter allergy, autumn allergy, fall allergy), pet allergy (dog allergy and cat allergy), pollen allergy, mold allergy, aspirin allergy, cosmetic allergy, dust allergy, nickel allergy, drug allergy and chemical allergy. All these types of allergies causes different sort of problems for human health.

There were several natural and anthropogenic environmental disasters which have seriously caused the large deaths and other abnormalities in human health. Different global natural environmental disasters are following; global epidemics (plague, Spanish flu, HIV/AIDS), arsenic crisis (Bangladesh), Asian earthquake and tsunami (2004), Hurricane Mitch of America (1998), Dutch flood disaster (1953), Brazil Roraima wildfires (1998), Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption (Philippines), Ellington, Missouri tornado (1925), Beijing and Queensland dust storms. Global anthropogenic environmental disasters are as following; Bhopal gas leakage (1984), Chernobyl: Russian nuclear power plant explosion (1986), Seveso: Italian dioxin crisis (1976), London smog disaster (1952), Major oil spills of the 20th and 21st century, The Love Canal chemical waste dump (1953), The Baia Mare cyanide spill (2000), The European BSE crisis (1986), Spanish waste water spill (1998). These natural and anthropogenic environmental disasters caused the massive deaths, health problems and socio-economic problems.

It is clearly described in the whole above discussion that healthy environment is critically or vitally important for healthy human beings. Global climate change and disaster preparedness having continues threat for human health by modulating the environmental factors at different levels.

There is dire need for providing the peoples with healthy environment which will definitely results in healthier and longer lives. In order to make the environment healthy following are the key objectives to be sorted out; healthy homes and societies, surface and ground water quality, air quality, disposal of toxic substances and hazardous wastes, global environmental health, infrastructure and surveillance. It is a generalized conclusion from the whole discussion that environment is the only agenda which needs serious consideration for human health promotion.

The writer is PhD Scholar-Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan. He can be reached at <amirmaqbool2269@gmail.com>

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