Final thoughts

Environmental Health is a very interesting subject. Personally I enjoyed it. I cannot say it is my calling especially with the amount of legal framework that has to do with this subject. Nevertheless I enjoyed learning in details  about problems of everyday life.

EH was a very surprising subject for me. I really thought it will be more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all the hazard we learned about are easy to handle or that the problems are easy to solve.  Nonetheless the journey through the theory of the subject was interesting but not hard. I have been told by many of my teachers that I only pay attention when I am interested and that gets me in trouble. Which is why I am so grateful for finding a bachelor that handles things that are interesting for me, and one that I am willingly investigating even on my free time. EH as definitely one of those subjects that I loved reading about. It did not consist of many chemical or physical formulas (Thank God or my Teacher) and it was easy to follow once I got a grip of what it is about. Hopefully you enjoyed this journey with me and stayed until the last post.

Case studies

In order to conclude our Environmental Health studies, we have gathered groups and presented a Case Study on one specific topic. The group I was in chose medicine and its impact on human health and environment, as I consider the use of medicine rose drastically recently and is getting out of hand.

I have unfortunately missed a few presentations given by my classmates, but the ones I have seen were concerning themselves with very interesting topics.

A presentation on Cryptosporidiosis in bathing water was about a microbe that can be resistant to chlorine that pool are treated with. If the breakout is big enough it can do a lot of damage. As we got do know during this presentation, the biggest ever outbreak of this microbe, happened in Utah, America. The presentation touched topic such as personal hygiene before using a pool, or using a pool while having a kid in a diaper. It was definitely a presentation that should be shown to the public in order to educate them. It was nicely done.

Another presentation that I got to see that day was about Food Poisoning by Melamine that as informing about a case of a chemical added to milk to lower the price and increase the nutritional value. That led to many unfortunate health effects especially amongst children. We got to know a surprising fact which I was not aware before, that Chinese dairy products are not allowed to be sold anywhere in Europe. It was a good presentation containing a topic I knew nothing about.

Last but not least I have watched a presentation on Drinking water. That presentation was not specifically surprising but it did contain plenty of information on the kinds of chemicals that contaminate the water. Another issue that the group mentioned was the fact that not everyone has access to drinking water, which is a matter close to my heart. The numbers are heart-breaking to think of. It was a lengthy but very detailed presentation.

Indoors

Indoor air is the one that we breath in while sitting inside. I moved to Finland this year, which means that during really cold winter I spent a lot of time indoors. It never occurred me to me, even though it is quiet logical, that indoor can be polluted, just as outdoor air. The effected of breathing in polluted indoor air can be experienced differently by differently people also depending on what contaminants we have in mind. Some effects may appear immediately after exposure, some may appear years after. There are many chemicals we can be breathing in while being indoors, CO2 we produce ourselves, if we are nasty enough to smoke inside we inhale the smoke from cigarettes, volatile organic compounds as well as ammonia, radon, dust and saprophytes which I am personally very allergic to. Other microbial and physical contaminants include bacteria, viruses noise and plenty others.

One way to deal with polluted indoor air is to eliminate individual source of pollution or try reducing the emission from the source. We can lower the concentration of pollutant indoors by increasing the flow of outdoor air, simply speaking just open the window and let some fresh air in. In every building the ventilation system should be taken care of. Same goes for humidifiers and dehumidifiers, the filters and air storage should be cleaned out every day. There should be no wet carpets or wallpapers in the house to keep the mold and moisture away from our lungs. Of course different people react differently on each contaminant, and some people may have no problem with dust others like me are sneezing their faces off. One way to keep the air in the apartment fresh is to keep plants, they breathe out what we need to breathe in to survive and e breathe out what they need to breathe in. It is not only a perfect symbiose, especially if we get some fruit plants, but it also cleans our air effectively, unless you buy a cactus.

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Just like outdoors, indoors we are exposed to different noise, whether it is tv, radio, generator, the washing machine, or loud ticking of a clock at night. Noise is able to play with our head to the point where it becomes unbearable, even when it isn’t loud. It can cause hypertension and disturb our sleep. Similar to outdoor air it can also play with mental health and cause cognitive impairment.

Outdoor air and noisy neighbors

Ambient air means outdoor air. We all spend time outside, more or less. All this puts us in danger of inhaling the contaminated air. There are plenty of different contaminants in air that can affect human health. Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide as well as many others. Air is obviously something we cannot live without, just try holding your breath for 2 minutes or more, can you? Air polluted with different kinds of contaminants can be dangerous to human health. It can lead to respiration disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many others. There are around 3 million death happening worldwide due to polluted air. There are quality checks in almost every country. AQI Air quality index is one way to check air quality in the countries. If the number is from 0 to 50, the air is of good quality, 51 to 100 is moderate. The higher the numbers the worse the air quality.

In order to keep air quality at its best the air quality risk control must either remove the source of the hazard or minimize it. One such hazard can be a chimney of a factory. Living right next to a factory like this can cause permanent health issues to those who live there, by changing the energy source in the factory and applying extra measures like filters that hazard can be minimized or even destroyed completely. Another way to deal with air pollution is to remove the pathway and the exposure itself. That could mean that people who live near that factory could move somewhere else, where the air is cleaner.

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Noise is another hazard we all must deal with in this modern society. Noise is defined as unwanted noise above the safe decibels. Unwanted noise can come from many various sources, such as traffic, trains, industry, constructions sites or even our neighbour who have horrible music taste and are possibly deaf because they listen to their music so loud you cannot hear your own thoughts. Being exposed to noise on daily basics can affect us more then we want it to. It can affect our cognitive processes, sleep, mental health in general and of course wildlife nearby. Risk management deal with removal of the source if possible. Let’s imagine a scenario, you just moved in to your new apartment, nice, big windows, near the forest, unfortunately someone else thought the same about that area and decided to build their house 20 meters from your building. Which means from day 1 you hear constant construction noise for around 16 hours a day. Can you remove the source? No, you cannot, but that person making the noise must have a permit from local authorities. You can make them reduce the number of hours and make a deal on not starting their work day way too early and not finishing way too late. Land use planning is often incorporated to make sure that the wildlife does not suffer too much in situations like this.

What is on my plate?

Just like in water, in food there can be hazards of different sorts. Chemical hazards in food can be added intentionally, either as colouring or preservative. The chemicals can also be naturally occurring on added accidentally, which shouldn’t happen too often. Physical hazards in food include dirt, hair, insects, and fishbones. Those are the things that can get to food unintentionally, one is unable to control the hair falling out of the scalp. Microbiological hazards contain mold, yeasts, bacteria, and many others. Many of the bacteria and yeast are good. They are used for centuries to make cheese, yoghurt and even beer.

In order for the food to stay safe for people to consume it must be taken care of throughout the entire process. We must also take into consideration that the contamination can happen throughout the entire process. Therefore the legislation must apply to each step. Food safety takes care of that, food safety means that the food we consume cannot harm the consumer. That process starts from production through processing, transport, distribution and supplying. We must also remember that even if the food was well taken care of, we might be digesting unwanted chemicals due to pesticide residues, additives and preservatives that is now almost like a plaque within every food product and other chemicals like sugars and colouring we wouldn’t have to worry about a few centuries ago. RASFF is one of the modern tools used to control the food quality, it stands for The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. It was created in 1979 and it is used to enable the members of EU to share information and provide a service that works 24/7 to make sure that in case of urgent situations a notification is sent, received, and responded to. Nonetheless one must be sure to take care of the food oneself. The food we buy as consumers must be hold in the right temperature and humidity. Overall taking care of our food, is important because it bring the nutrients to us that e need to survive long with clean air and water.

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One topic that is worth mentioning Is GMO- Genetically Modified Organisms. Everyone has a different opinion about it and personal feeling. GMOs have existed for thousands of years, we have been selectively breeding crops and animals we found most suitable or abundant. When we look at very old paintings, we can see for example a watermelon, comparing it to the watermelons we are eating now they are much different, and have less flesh and more skin and seeds, nowadays, there are less seeds in watermelon. Some countries can even grow it in shapes. With modern technology we no longer need to wait for our luck while using selective breeding, we are able to genetically modify to be sure that what we want, we get. Some people are against GMO but the studies that have been conducted over the last 30 years have proven that eating GMOs has the same risk level as eating non-GMOs. I personally don’t mind GMO although it sounds a little sinister. My family have tried selective breeding, we have taken a branch of one apple tree and transplanted it on the other, and now we have a huge three that give to kinds of apples. I think people fear the unknown.

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Bathing Water

Bathing water is the one we can bathe in. It can be inland, coastal or swimming pools. I’m sure that people everywhere around the globe with access to any kind of bathing water enjoy spending their free time there, either swimming or just relaxing. Therefore the authorities must make sure that people who do that are safe.

The way people can be exposed to different chemicals and other contaminants is either through direct digestion of the water, while swimming. Some contaminants can also affect people by dermal contact. In order to prevent anything from happening it is better to use the precautionary principle, which means that monitoring the bathing water quality is important. It is important to look out for the quality of water, and the environment around if it isn’t a human made pool. Legislation in many countries keep an eye for bathing water, and in many of those countries, three to five samples per season must be delivered. If anything were to happen treatment of the water must be applied. If it is coastal bathing water and the treatment will take longer, the public must be warned about the water conditions. If it is a pool e speak of the pool hydraulics must be kept in good state, and fresh water must be added to avoid the water getting stale and easily contaminated.

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Potable water

Potable water basically means it is good for people to drink. As we all know, water just like air is that one thing we cannot live without. The reason there is life on this beautiful planet we are destroying, is because of presence of water. Drinking water usually comes from ground waters which is a raw source. Of course other sources of water is a tap, where the water can already been treated and also from bottles. Unfortunately, some companies like Nestle, bottles up ground water in countries that need it the most, because it is cheaper for them. There are also different ways that water can be contaminated. Contamination can be microbiological or chemical. One example can be eutrophication. Eutrophication means “well nourished” in Greek. It is an environmental problem of nitrates and phosphates from lawn fertilizers that flow into the water and are prompting growth of algae, that wouldn’t be a problem but the algae feed on the oxygen in the water, lack of which kills all the other species in the water source such as a lake.

There are many ways the authorities can assess the quality of water. There are different parameters. Organopathic parameters assess water by checking it colour, odour, taste and turbidity of water. Turbidity simply means the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye. Physiochemical parameters concerns it self with the pH of water. 7 means it is neutral, anything higher than that is alkaline and anything lower is acidic. It also assesses water when it comes to hardness.

Groundwater is the one that flows under the surface of Earth. It can also be precipitation that falls and soaks into the ground. Of course ground water circulates from lakes and rivers as well, which means that groundwater can be contaminated from the surface waters. Ground water is approximately 22% of all waters covering our interesting planet. The hazards that endanger ground water can be chemical, for example from treatment process. It can also be contaminated while it flows through pipes.

Surface water varies a little from groundwater’s. Surface waters are the ones running on land, in streams, in lakes. It flows slower and gets contaminated faster. Surface water can be affected but easy thing like topography or soil condition. Everything is important when we are dealing with such a delicate thing as water.

In order to keep water clean so that we can drink it without getting contaminated it must be treated. Raw water, that goes through treatment becomes drinking water. Without that we can ingest something we shouldn’t. Of course something can go wrong before the water from the treatment gets to our taps, but most of the times the authorities make sure it does not happen.

Risk?

Risk by definition, is a situation involving exposure to danger. Removal of risk is nearly never possible, we can however always work to reduce or prevent it. To predict the risk, we must take into the consideration the like hood and the severity of the source of the exposure. If the like hood is high but the severity is not, the risk ratings are low, vice versa, when the like hood is low and the severity is high. The higher the severity and the like hood, the higher the risk rating, which must be followed by actions to prevent any ramification. The risk can be calculated into numbers, and then act upon the result. Another factor that must be considered is that the impact and the like hood is important on which hazard it is we are dealing with. Let’s say the contamination is by gaseous hazard, that would expose people by inhalation which can be dangerous if the gas is very concentrated.

Source, pathway, exposure. These altogether or separately can influence how strong the risk will be. The way to deal with it is either to remove and avoid the contaminants which ever it is. If it is not possible to remove the contaminant it’s impact should be minimized as much as possible. Beside minimizing the risk it is also important to control the source from which the contaminant is coming from, secure the pathways and reduce the exposure of it to the environment.

The contaminants depending on how concentrated and which one they are must be contained on different levels. Global > national > regional > local > individual. Let’s look at a situation that happened in Chernobyl. The radioactive components got out into clouds and contaminated the air that blew by wind to the territories outside Ukraine. So that became a multi-national matter. If the issue concerned a pipe that only affected half the city it would be local. In case of any issues there are procedures that must be followed depending on how big the issue has become. If the issue is global and can be eliminated, it should be done so, if not the next step is substitution, engineering control, signage, warnings, administrative control, and lastly personal protection control which usually means helmets when riding bike or personal water filters on taps at home.

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Hazards thrown our way

The hazards that we are exposed to -chemical, -microbial, -physical and others can reach us through:

– oral – drinking water, – food, – microbes

– dermal – everything that can touch our skin, – bathing water, – cosmetics

– inhalation – air

Many of these can be taken care of by applying the right measures such as water quality checks, food hygiene and safety, making sure that the food production follows the legislations set or it. To every problem there is a solution, that is exactly why environmental health exists.

Let me give you an example I find relevant in my life, such as dermal exposure through cosmetics and medicine. We live in the century where everything must be quick and easy. Have a headache? Take a pill. Can’t sleep? Take a pill. Got dry skin? Buy a random cream that the consumerism culture tells you is very moisturising. Got problem with your scalp? Buy Head&Shoulders. I personally dislike that specific way of solving problems. From my perspective, I will rather spend time in summer to pick up fresh chamomile, dry it, and drink it for a goodnight sleep. I rather rinse my hair with water mixed with rosemary and lemon extract than use something that consists of:
– Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (Toxic environmental pollutant)
– Parabens (carcinogenic (cancer causing))
– Isopropyl alcohol (links to headaches, depression, kills positive microbes)
– Paraphenylenediamine (impacts immune system)
– Triethanolamine (DEA),Monoethanolamide (MEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) (Endocrine disruptors (Endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones)
– Propylene glycol (Can damage kidneys and liver)
– Isobutene, methylpropane (a toxin found in many different cosmetics)
– Alkylphenols (endocrine disruptors)

All those chemicals are supposedly safe but I personally don’t think that anything that requires chemistry should be used on human body. Worst thing is that by using shampoos and shower gels with chemicals like this, we flash it down the drain, and that often is being released to natural habitat of many more, small organisms that will suffer more than we would.

From my perspective, nothing in our world even if organic is pure without any residue. Smoke from the chimney of a factory can spread within any direction. Wind can push anything anywhere around the world, and of course the acid rain with chemicals can fall anywhere, if on an organic garden. I am not sure how about anyone else, but in summer, I have many times just stood in the warm summer rain and enjoyed it. Before I even heard about the meaning of acid rain, I had a friend once, that asked me why am I standing like stupid absorbing the chemicals from the rain. He explained what he meant, that the rain can come from a cloud with any chemical from any part of the world. This really opened my eyes. Years later, I still keep that day in my mind, as a reminder, that people are sometimes unaware of what is happening. In this century, being completely organic and natural is impossible. Even the most nature connected people can somehow be affected by the hazards threatening our health.

New to Environmental Health

Anyone who does not know what environmental health is about, are not aware of how simple it is. Not easy, but simple. EH is important, it saves the environment from hazardous impacts, so that future generations will have a safe and healthy environment. While living in the society we do, we might never truly be able to leave a safe and healthy environment, for the future generations. Nevertheless, we can do our best to prevent complete destruction of the environment and do our best not to leave any danger behind. It is especially important for me personally, to create a better world, for the future generations.
One important thing to mention is that there are different factors to look out for. Chemical factor just like any others can be found  in air, water, soil or food. Chemical factors usually refers to any kind of chemicals. Microbiological factors refer to microbes and other natural factor. Physical factors include dust, noise, and radiation. There can also be other factors such as psychological.

The source means the original place from here the contamination came from. The pathway is the way of the contaminant being exposed.

The way that each Country deals with issues like this is by blending authority into it. Usually those are different legislations concerning different issues.

Concerning legal framework back in Denmark I would like to first mention that the country generally considers itself very environmentally conscious. In order to keep on their level they have a lot of different legislations to keep the standards.