Environmental health hazards
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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH HAZARDS. Dr Leela Anthony Medical Research Officer Institute for Medical research. Definition. World Health Organization ( WHO, 1993 ): defines

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Environmental health hazards


Dr Leela Anthony

Medical Research Officer

Institute for Medical research



  • World Health Organization (WHO, 1993): defines

    "Environmental health comprises those aspects of human health, including quality of life, that are determined by physical, chemical, biologic, social, and psychosocial factors in the environment."

  • And any external factor that negatively affects your health can be considered an environmental health hazard.



  • In developing countries with large rural populations , people continue to suffer from

    traditional risks

  • Like unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and hygiene, and indoor smoke from domestic cooking and heating.

  • In developing countries with large urban

    populations and more industry, people are exposed to additional environmental risks

    including exposure to urban, industrial and agrochemical pollution, as well as industrial


  • More recently, concerns about the health impact of changes in climate and ecosystems have been raised.

Environmental health hazards1

Environmental health hazards

  • Land and climate related hazards

  • Atmospheric hazards –

  • Water related hazards-

  • Food Borne hazards

  • Vector Borne Hazards

  • Domestic Hazards

  • Occupational Hazards

  • Infrastructural hazards

  • Others

Land and climate related hazards

Land and climate related hazards

  • Floods : Common in both lowland coastal and inland areas, especially in Tropics and monsoon areas

  • Storms

  • Hurricanes

  • Volcanic activity

  • Earthquakes

  • Soil erosion

  • Drought

Atmospheric hazards

Atmospheric hazards

  • Out Door Pollution /Air

  • Increasing problem in many urban areas due to road traffic;

  • Also associated with old, heavy and manufacturing industries and mining wind-blown dust also a significant problem in some areas

Outdoor pollution sources

Outdoor pollution- sources

  • Industry

  • Vehicles: Cars and trucks

  • Other sources such as gasoline stations, farm equipments, fires, and outdoor pesticide use.

Primary outdoor air pollutants

Primary outdoor air pollutants

  • Pollutants of concern are

  • Ozone (O3)

  • Particulate Matter (PM)

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)

  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

  • Lead (Pb)

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Water related hazards

Water related hazards

  • Surface water

  • In urban areas, primarily from industrial and domestic wastes

  • In rural related pollution areas with co-use of waters for humans and livestock

  • Drinking water Especially in areas without access to treated/piped water


Water pollution

Water pollution

Common pollutants of area rivers, streams, bayous, lakes, ponds, estuaries and bays include:

  • fertilizers from home lawns and gardens, as well as agriculture;

  • mercury from power plants and industrial waste;

  • herbicides and insecticides;

  • oil and other chemicals from roadway runoff;

  • prescription medications, paint and other toxic substances disposed down household sinks and toilets;

  • trash and sediment from construction sites;

  • pet waste;

  • faulty septic systems;

  • run-off from industrial sources or sewage treatment plants; and

  • hormone and prescription medications in human waste.

Health risks associated with water pollution

Health risks associated with water pollution

  • Drinking or washing with contaminated water;

  • Eating seafood from polluted rivers or bays;

  • Eating crops watered with polluted water; and/or

  • Swimming in polluted waterways.

Food borne hazards

Food Borne hazards

  • Biological Contamination

  • Associated with poor domestic sanitation and hygiene arrangements

  • Chemical Contamination

    E.g. food additives, pesticides

Vector borne hazards

Vector Borne Hazards

  • Water related vectors

  • E.g. malaria, guinea worm, schistosomiasis

  • Animal related vectors

  • E.g. sleeping sickness, bubonic plague

Domestic hazards

Domestic Hazards

  • Indoor Air Pollution

  • Domestic problems -Often associated with over-crowding and poor living conditions

  • Sanitation: Severe problem in areas lacking organized sewerage system (e.g. in informal settlements)

  • Waste handling: Associated especially with open waste dumps – e.g. communities living on, or regularly sorting trough, waste sites

Common indoor air pollutants

Common Indoor Air Pollutants

  • second-hand tobacco smoke;

  • airborne mold and mildew;

  • pet dander;

  • lead-impregnated dust from old paint and some vinyl mini blinds;

  • cockroach shedding;

  • dust mite particles;

  • combustion gases released by stoves, heaters, candles and fireplaces; and

  • chemicals released by

    • dry cleaned clothes;

    • cleaning products;

    • room deodorizers;

    • office supplies;

    • carpets;

    • paints and sealers;

    • new furniture and pressed wood;

    • personal care products; and pesticides

Things you can do to reduce indoor air pollution

Things You Can Do To Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

  • To reduce the levels of indoor air pollution you can:

  • never allow smoking indoors;

  • use less toxic cleaning products;

  • make certain that the indoor space is properly ventilated;

  • reduce levels of cockroach and dust mite particles;

  • reduce pet dander;

  • avoid or minimize use of pesticides indoors;

  • use low toxicity paints, sealers

  • reduce the use of solvent-based dry cleaning and/or air out dry-cleaned clothes thoroughly before bringing into one's home;

  • avoid idling an internal combustion engine, such as a car, lawn mower or fork lift, in an enclosed space or near the entrance to one's home or workplace; and

  • change air filters frequently.

Occupational hazards

Occupational Hazards

  • Industrial Pollutants:Especially in hazardous and unregulated industries (e.g. informal sector)

  • Occupational Accidents: Especially in hazardous/unregulated industries (e.g. informal sector)

Workplace hazards

Workplace Hazards

Many jobs expose workers to environmental toxins

Exposure to

  • Lead,

  • solvents,

  • Asbestos,

  • Pesticides,

  • Inks,

  • Dry cleaning chemicals

  • Molds and other substances in the workplace.

Infrastructural hazards

Infrastructural hazards

  • Traffic : Accidents and noise pollution, Growing problem in major cities

  • Industrial Accidents: Associated mainly with poorly regulated chemical industries

  • Contaminated land: Old industrial sites and waste-dumps

Noise pollution

Noise Pollution

  • Traffic, trains, buses, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, helicopters, construction noise, low-flying recreational planes, jet skis, air-conditioning units,

  • Exposure to noise levels higher than 85 decibels for long periods of time can cause permanent hearing damage

  • Lower levels have been shown to cause stress, increase blood pressure, cause sleep disturbances which affect sleep quality as well as mood and performance

Hazards from waste

Hazards from Waste

  • Municipal solid waste includes residential and industrial waste. Solid waste is usually disposed of in landfills or recycled

  • Hazardous waste, defined as that which is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or ignitable needs to be disposed of properly.

  • Nuclear waste raise concerns about potential radiation exposure.

  • Sources are commercial power plants, hospitals, and non-military sources nuclear power plants

Socioeconomic factors

Socioeconomic Factors

  • Socioeconomic factors

  • Include income

  • Ethnicity, sense of community and other such factors.

  • Studies have shown that certain segments of society are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, and may be more vulnerable to such hazards than other populations

Residents in low income

Residents in low income

  • In general, residents in low income, minority neighborhoods are more likely to live near:

  • chemical waste dumping sites;

  • electric power plants;

  • municipal incinerators;

  • solid waste landfills;

  • industrial plants; and

  • heavily traveled roadways.

Other environmental health hazards

Other Environmental Health Hazards

  • Heat and Humidity

  • High humidity impedes the body's ability to cool itself.

  • This is a particular problem for the elderly.

  • StressExcessive stress is associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of environmentally related illness.   

Climate change and environmental health hazards

Climate Change and Environmental health Hazards

Climate change

Climate change

  • Over the ages, human societies have altered local ecosystems and modified regional climates

  • Climate and weather has a powerful impact on human health and well-being.

  • The recent rapid increase in population size, energy consumption, intensity of land use, international trade and travel, and other human activities has an impact on the health of the population

  • Abnormally high temperatures in Europe in the summer of 2003 were associated with at least 27,000 deaths

  • Climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhoea, and 6% of malaria in some middle-income countries

  • Global climate change is, therefore, a newer challenge to ongoing efforts to protect human health

Health impacts due to climate change

Health Impacts due to Climate Change

  • Certain infectious diseases – including vector-borne infections such as malaria and dengue fever, and food-borne infections (e.g. salmonellosis) which peak in the warmer months.

  • Extremes of both heat and cold can cause potentially fatal illnesses, e.g. heat stress or hypothermia, as well as increasing death rates from heart and respiratory diseases.

  • Others are food-producing ecosystems, rising sea-levels and population displacement for reasons of physical hazard, land loss, economic disruption and civil strife,



  • The big 3 are physical, chemical, and biological.

  • Physical- noise, lighting, vibration, temperature, electricity

  • Chemical-solvents, acids, metals, dust, pesticides

  • Biological- bacteria, virus, fungus/molds

  • The fourth is probably the occupational side of environmental health

  • Ergonomic-repetitive movement, poorly designed equipment,

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