We are what our environment is. Be it physical or mental health, our environment greatly impacts how fit we are. Since there is a constant interaction between human beings and the surroundings, it affects the quality of life, lifespan, and the occurrence of diseases. With growing population and industrialization, the external factors are quickly changing, and sadly, not in a good way. About 25% of deaths and diseases are attributed to environmental factors, globally.
Being aware of these factors help us change our lifestyle in a preventive way and improve our quality of living. Mentioned below are the same.
Environmental Factors That Affect Human Health
1. Exposure To Hazardous Substances In The Air
The air around us is polluted with a plethora of chemicals released in it. The major causes are burning of fossil fuels, emission of toxic waste by the industries, release of ammonia due to modern agricultural practices, and release of dust and chemicals during the mining process. Each one of these gives rise to a different health issue.
Burning of fossil fuels releases carbon monoxide into the air, which is the primary reason for ozone depletion and global warming. Breathing such air has shown decreased functioning of lungs and respiratory inflammation. Studies show a marked increase in the number of patients with coughing and wheezing problems who spent more than 2 hours of their time in heavy traffic.
Particles of ammonia present in the air can be mainly attributed to the excessive use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers in agriculture. Ammonia is a potent carcinogen and inhaling the polluted air can cause lung cancer. Chronic bronchitis is also one of the side effects.
Depending on the industry, the toxic chemicals released in the air can lead to asthma, respiratory disorders, weak immune and endocrine system. Particle pollution due to mining can increase the risk of heart disease.
While these factors are related to external air, internal air also plays a vital role in health. Secondhand smoking is one of the leading culprits of compromised indoor air. This can induce asthma, allergic reactions, and increase the risk of various cancers.
2. Impact Of Toxic Substances In The Water
Water is vital not just for drinking, but also for irrigation, sustainability of aquatic life, and most importantly water cycle – which is responsible for rains. Letting industrial waste and sewage waste into water resources, marine dumping, and accidental oil spillage expose the water resources to harmful chemical and physical waste. Lead, arsenic, mercury, ammonia, nitrates, radioactive materials, paper, wood, metal, rubber, and plastic are some of them.
Consuming polluted water is the main cause of amebiasis and typhoid. Lead poisoning of water leads to learning and behavioral problems in children. Such children have a low IQ and problems with hearing and growth. In adults, lead, pesticide, and heavy metal contamination of water lead to hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, and kidney and liver damage. Exposure to mercury leads to cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Aquatic life forms are an important part of the food chain. Exposure of the same to pollutants can induce genetic mutations. When consumed, they can lead to mercury, lead, and arsenic poisoning in humans.
3. Exposure To Physical Hazards
A physical hazard is defined as a factor within the environment which causes harm to the human body, without necessarily touching it. Some of the examples are vibration, noise, radiations, pressure, and electricity. While physical hazards in most cases are occupational, in some, even a small household electrical appliance could harm you.
Working in an environment which produces more than 80 decibels of sound damages your hearing ability. Electromagnetic radiations from occupational products can lead to ionization of intracellular membrane, causing mutations. Products like an X-ray machine, surgical laser, motion detectors, security systems, television receiver, dryers, ovens, heater, and video monitor are some of them.
Certain electrical appliances at your home, in a long run, can give rise to a range of health problems. Chlorofluorocarbons emitted by a refrigerator impact your respiratory system. Switching on the wi-fi router or placing any electrical device near you while sleeping could induce sleeplessness, psychosomatic illness, and chronic pain. Television sets, computer, radio, and phones constantly emit electromagnetic radiations leading to restlessness and fatigue.
4. Impact Of Environmental Issues On Nutritional Sources
Most of us have become a prey to eating junk and have ignored the importance of a balanced diet. While this already puts us at a risk of obesity and lack of nutrition, the healthy food sources do not ensure complete nutrition either. Overuse of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and insecticides impact the quality of crops. Soil depletion and over processing of the crops are other reasons for inclusion of toxins in the food sources. Consuming organically grown crops though offer benefits, do not completely suffice the nutritional demands.
This gives rise to nutritional deficiencies which further impact our physical, mental, and cognitive health. Frequent illness, compromised immune system, mood swings, anxiety, depression, impaired memory, and paranoia are some of the side effects. It also affects the future generation since they are born with nutritional deficiencies. Their life expectancy is also reduced.
5. Ill Effects Of Biological Hazards
One can be exposed to biological hazards because of either the occupation or a widespread epidemic. When one comes in contact with a biologically active organism like bacteria, virus, fungi, or a parasite, he is prone to infections.
Occupational exposure can happen when a person works in a hospital, laboratory, animal husbandry farm, dairy farm, or pet shop. Not following basic hygiene and sterilization practices can lead to different health conditions. Most commonly contracted diseases are tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, AIDS, dermatoses, reproductive problems, and asthma.
The government is taking various measures to control the widespread depletion and misuse of natural resources. It is important that we do our bit by not adding to the already existing woes. Following proper waste management techniques, judicious usage of electrical appliances, and opting for a public transport are the basic things, to begin with.