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This discipline deals with how the environment affects human health. It discusses the externalities to human beings that can cause harm to their health. Environmental health practices involve instituting measures of preventing diseases and health supportive measures. Environmental health encompasses both built and natural environment; the concerns include noise pollution control, housing, food safety, climate change, disaster preparedness, occupational health and safety, radiological health among others.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has rolled out information programs that have enabled people access information on environmental health perspectives, risk factors, and preventive measures. Human beings should ensure that their safety is supreme by practicing the preventive measures.
Unsafe foods are responsible for the death of 2.2 million people per year, 1.9 million of which are children (Food safety 2009). Some of the acute diseases include diarrheal diseases and different cancerous diseases. These diseases have caused enormous threats to human lives until they have become a public health concern.
The WHO through its vision and mission is helping Member States to identify and prevent various causes of food borne diseases. This program helps to ensure food safety from the production to the final consumption point. In ensuring continuous food safety among the public, the WHO in 2010 launched a new resolution on food safety dubbed Advancing food safety initiatives.
The resolution was to put a strategy that could survey food borne diseases and efficient exchange of information among Member States, especially the developing nations that have poor nutritional status. The initiative notes that food security has been a perennial problem in the third world countries, therefore, food safety and nutrition should be essential in malnutrition and hunger eradication.
Food safety requires risk assessment techniques in order to avoid numerous infections that come as a result of mishandling of foods. The WHO has executed the Global Environment Monitoring System – Food Contamination Monitoring and Assessment Program (GEMS/Food) (Food safety 2009); this program informs government, non-governmental organizations and the public of various levels of contaminants in food and their effects when exposed to human beings.
Food contaminations are due to chemical spillages or overuse of food chemicals like in preservations. In addition, contamination can occur as a result of air, soil and water pollution, for instance, the entry of toxic metals from chemicals like animal drugs and pesticides. On the other hand, food additives can adversely affect the health of humans.
Food safety is a global issue that requires vivid and appropriate course of action. First, a food safety education program should be among the sustainable preventive measures. This program will enhance awareness among the public on how to handle food to avert contracting the food borne diseases like typhoid and cholera.
Moreover, the public will be able to comprehend the amount of additives that food processing companies should put in various foods. This approach enables the public to hold food companies accountable for any problem that may arise from their products.
The international risk assessment should also provide pertinent information on how to handle issues of food safety. The department of food safety and zoonoses (FOS) should liaise with other food-based organizations to carry out uniform and evidence-based scientific researches in order to protect consumers’ health.
Food processing companies should also adhere to a standard additive and chemical usage. From this analysis, food security remains a vibrant and challenging topic in the current world of public health. The WHO has indeed tried to institute preventive measures that can minimize the risks of consuming unsafe foods. However, a lot still need to be done; for instance, conducting a household and restaurant food safety awareness. This consumer education will minimize food mishandling and improper preparation.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
This regulation ensures that workers are protected at their workplaces. Some activities like mining, loading of ships and fishing boats are risky ventures that require proper protection methods. Others are steel, chemical and loading industries; the emissions from the chemical industries are extremely harmful and can lead to loss of lives. In addition, cement firms can cause asthmatic conditions to employees.
Therefore, employers should ensure that the safety of their workers is paramount by following all the provisions of OHS act (Occupational health & safety n.d.). The OHS act upholds high level of mental and physical well-being of workers when at the work stations. In addition, there are psychological and social issues such as bullying, work-related stress, sexual harassment and burnouts.
These situations lead to stressful life; it becomes dominant when the management postpones decision-making activities. Employees who are tasked with decision-making should ensure that they do it within the shortest time possible. Incase other problems require the attention of another department; they should direct the issues immediately to that department. This will help to avoid procrastination in decision-making.
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Exposures in the following industries are exceptionally dangerous: fishing, transportation, metalworking, construction, lumber, aviation and mining. In the construction industry, falls are the main cause of injuries among employees/contractors.
For instance, in the United States, injuries from the construction industry were three times the injuries from all the remaining industries (About Occupational Health & Safety 2011). On the agricultural sector, there are skin diseases, ear problems due to noise from machines, and certain cancers. Farm workers can also get fatal injuries from tractor rollovers and drowning.
To mitigate these complications, industries should have a properly laid safety policy and insurance policies like workers compensation. The construction industry, for instance, should use proper safety equipment to avert impeding risks. Further, there should be clear health and safety regulations that the Construction Design Management Coordinator must ensure that all the workers follow.
The OHS professionals ought to evaluate all working environments to certify if they conform to the required standards, inform employers to develop measures that will minimize injuries and carry out OHS awareness among workers so that they can raise the alarm in case of disobedience by the employers.
In OHS, risk assessment procedures include hazard identification, identification of those affected by the hazard and to the extent, evaluating the risk and, then, identifying and prioritizing control measures. This process is done in a practical manner. OHS remains an essential health concern since human being must work to earn a living, and there are different working environments which have different impacts on the health of individuals.
Environmental protection involves practices that human beings can institute to lower environmental degradation. The current environmental challenges like global warming, water pollution and massive soil erosion require stringent actions in order to be mitigated. Human activities like improper land usage can lead to soil erosion; for instance, continuous land tillage and ploughing across the contours facilitates soil run off (Environmental Protection Plan 2010).
In addition, cutting down of trees in the environment exposes soil to wind, thus removing the top fertile soil. When this happens, crop productivity also goes down thereby setting up food insecurity. On the other front, lack of forest will lead to low rainfall in that area since there will be no rainfall catchment region.
Emissions from the industries possess immense challenge to the entire environment. Industries release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which later results to ozone depletion. Afterwards, the atmospheric temperature rises above the standard temperature. Automobiles also release toxic gases into the atmosphere; these gases cause health complications to humans.
In February 2001, IPCC report outlined possible consequences of global warming, for example, floods, droughts, cyclones and species extinction due to the disappearance of species (Environmental Protection Processes n.d.). There were also constant changes in rainfall patterns thus resulting to pressure on available water sources.
In addition, there were melting of equatorial glaciers in Peru and Africa, delayed freezing, early breakup of lake ice, notable circulation of warm water in the North Atlantic and massive reduction in Greenland and West Antarctic sheets. The constant droughts were also seen as means of adding CO2 into the atmosphere that is northern soils could release CO2 into the air. Droughts lead to death of fauna and flora since they mostly depend on adequate rainfall patterns.
Clearly, any effect on the environment affects all humanity irrespective of the actors. Therefore, stringent measures or legislations should be applied to avert such scenarios from occurring. The UNEP together with other agencies should ensure that the public, companies and other business operators adhere to these regulations.
Ships, for instance, should be constructed in ways that minimize oil spillage. In China, most of its carbon dioxide emissions come from cars. At present, the cars are cleaner than they were 30 years ago. The whole world should ensure that their automobiles are electrified. Such vehicles do not release effluents into the atmosphere thereby maintaining the cleanliness of air (Environmental Protection Plan 2010).
The National Aeronautics and Space Exploration (NASA) have tried to move towards this direction by making cars that use natural gas. The idea was initially meant to monitor the propelling of hydrogen in the Space Shuttle. The automobile industry has borrowed the concept to develop the environmentally friendly cars.
Besides, the engineers make the radial tires from larger chain materials thereby increasing their lifespan by over 10,000 miles. The purification of air and water using various methods helped in making them safe for human consumption. The effect reduced health problems that were posing significant threats to the humankind, animals, and other properties/materials.
On the other front, using electricity will reduce overdependence on oil and even encourage continuous use of cleaner bio-fuels. Countries like Brazil and China have started using this technology and are saving billions of dollars that could have been spent at the gas pumps. In further reducing emissions, NASA has also developed vehicles powered by lithium batteries.
The fuel cell systems generate energy through an electrochemical reaction (Environmental Protection Processes n.d.). Fuel cell systems provide opportunities that have outstanding benefits, including the non- combustion of fuel. Fuel cells eliminate greenhouse gases over the entire cycle. Hydrogen electrolysis is driven by renewable energy and, therefore, the degree of safety is highly enhanced.
The electric vehicles do not emit any effluent thus making them safer to the environment compared to other models. In the transportation sector, human beings can practice a culture of riding or walking to work, driving for short distances, or forgoing driving at least once a week. These practices help to reduce the amount of gas that is burnt during movements.
Housing and Health
Housing is one of the common areas that touch on public health; their construction and finishing materials like paints and cements can cause hazards. People spend most of their time in these structures. Houses are commonly meant for security; people tend to forget the other aspect of physical, biological and chemical hazards that are consequences of house design. Some of the hazards are revealed in a close study of Britain’s annual deaths.
The country records over 20,000 deaths per year due to the vulnerability of houses to cold (Wilkinson 2009). Houses with inadequate heating and insulation record more deaths than those houses with proper insulation. The stairs in houses are also the leading cause of injuries and deaths among children and the old. England records close 230,000 injuries and 500 deaths annually due to falls on stairs. Therefore, falls constitute a sizeable number of injuries and deaths. These are due to poor designs and maintenance of stairs in buildings.
On chemical hazards, poor ventilators and continued burning of charcoal and gas boilers can release carbon monoxide that chokes and causes death. According to Wilkinson 2009, carbon monoxide has caused over 60 deaths annually in England. Radon, a naturally radioactive gas diffuses easily and dissolves in water.
It accumulates inside houses and if inhaled; it increases the risk of contracting lung cancer. In Britain, it is believed that radon is responsible for 20 cases of lung cancer, leukemia and skin cancer. Housing conditions cause nervous system, cardiovascular, respiratory/chronic diseases and cancer. In US, lead and chemical hazards, which are used in paints, are common contaminants. Water infiltration in houses is a leading cause for pest infiltration such as mice and rats (Housing for Health n.d.).
Since most of the world population reside in low and middle income areas where there are unhealthy slum houses, there is need to enhance house safety even among the low class. Countries should initiate programs aiming at modifying their existing houses. The WHO should ensure that the guidelines are adopted in all the Member State nations (Housing and Health n.d.).
Moreover, a carefully prescribed methodology that demands routine checks and tests on house safety should be used in all constructions in future. The survey combines before and after testing and checking of housing conditions. Such building regulations on design are good for health. Markedly, trade-offs in design, for instance, higher energy efficiency can enable low income earners to afford safe houses. Such houses discourage growth of moulds and allow free indoor air flow.
In England and Wales, there have been the Housing Health and Safety Rating System that give an assessment based on the health risks and hazards of all houses (Housing and Health n.d.).
This initiative improves the fitness standards of houses by eliminating health hazards like cold, heat, falls, damp and mould, carbon dioxide, radon and lead paints. In fact, the WHO has tried to institute measures to the extent of legal implications and fee levies on wrong house designs. Human safety in the world remains a solemn subject that requires involvement of every person.
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Wilkinson, P. 2009, The health problems associated with poor housing and home conditions. Welcome to HealthKnowledge | Health Knowledge. Web.