Cleaner air benefits human health and climate changeArticle 15 Dec 2017
Thanks to legislation, technology and moves away from heavily polluting fossil fuels in many countries, Europe’s air quality has been improving in recent decades. However, many people continue to be negatively affected by air pollution, especially in cities. Given its complexity, tackling air pollution requires taking coordinated action at many levels. To get citizens involved, providing them timely information in an accessible way is essential. Our recently launched Air Quality Index does just that. Improvements in air quality would not only benefit our health, but could also help tackle climate change.
Climate change in Europe: Responding to disasters and preparing for an uncertain futureArticle 15 Sep 2017
Floods, strong winds, heatwaves, droughts… Climate change and climate-change related extreme weather events are a cause of a growing concern not only in Europe but everywhere in the world. Many communities are affected by such extreme events and have to take measures to prevent and minimise the harm. How can communities adapt to a changing climate and prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters? We interviewed Sergio Castellari, EEA expert on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation.
Chemicals in Europe: understanding impacts on human health and the environmentArticle 15 Jun 2017
Exposure to harmful chemicals is known to have impacts on human health and the environment. With global chemical production on the rise and new chemicals being developed and put to use, how do we know what is considered safe? We discussed with Xenia Trier, EEA expert on chemicals, different issues linked to a safe use of chemicals in Europe and what the EU is doing to reduce their potential side effects.
Noise pollution in the spotlightArticle 15 Mar 2017
In April, the European Environment Agency will help raise awareness of the growing problem of noise pollution across Europe. We discussed with Colin Nugent, an EEA noise pollution expert, the very real health impacts of noise which are often underestimated.
These hazards can impact health and safety. Maintaining healthy homes and communities is essential to environmental health.
Infrastructure and Surveillance
Preventing exposure to environmental hazards relies on many partners, including state and local health departments. Personnel, surveillance systems, and education are important resources for investigating and responding to disease, monitoring for hazards, and educating the public. Additional methods and greater capacity to measure and respond to environmental hazards are needed.
Global Environmental Health
Water quality is an important global challenge. Diseases can be reduced by improving water quality and sanitation and increasing access to adequate water and sanitation facilities.
Emerging Issues in Environmental Health
Environmental health is a dynamic and evolving field. While not all complex environmental issues can be predicted, some known emerging issues in the field include:
Climate change is projected to impact sea level, patterns of infectious disease, air quality, and the severity of natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and storms.3,4
Preparedness for the environmental impact of natural disasters as well as disasters of human origin includes planning for human health needs and the impact on public infrastructure, such as water and roadways.5
The potential impact of nanotechnology is significant and offers possible improvements to:
- Disease prevention, detection, and treatment
- Clean energy
- Environmental risk assessment
However, nanotechnology may also present unintended health risks or changes to the environment.6
The Built Environment
Features of the built environment appear to impact human health—influencing behaviors, physical activity patterns, social networks, and access to resources.7
Exposure to Unknown Hazards
Every year, hundreds of new chemicals are introduced to the U.S. market. It is presumed that some of these chemicals may present new, unexpected challenges to human health, and their safety should be evaluated prior to release.
These cross-cutting issues are not yet understood well enough to inform the development of systems for measuring and tracking their impact. Further exploration is warranted. The environmental health landscape will continue to evolve and may present opportunities for additional research, analysis, and monitoring.
Blood Lead Levels
As of 2017, there are approximately 4 million houses or buildings that have children living in them who are potentially being exposed to lead. Nearly half a million U.S. children ages 1 to 5 have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), which is currently the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be taken. Even blood lead exposure levels as low as 2 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) can affect a child’s cognitive function. Since no safe blood lead level have been identified for children, any exposure should be taken seriously. However, since lead exposure often occurs with no obvious signs or symptoms, it often remains unrecognized. CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is committed to the Healthy People 2020 goals of eliminating childhood lead exposures and decreasing disparities in the differences in average risk of lead exposure based on race and social class as public health concerns.
1World Health Organization. Preventing disease through healthy environments. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2006.
2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Our Nation's air: Status and trends through 2008. Washington, DC: EPA; 2010.
3Patz J, Campbell-Lendrum D, Holloway T, et al. Impact of regional climate change on human health. Nature. 2005 Nov 17;438(7066):310-17.
4Kinney PL. Climate change, air quality, and human health. Am J Prev Med. 2008 Nov;35(5):459-67.
5Noji E, Lee CY. Disaster preparedness. In: Frumkin H, editor. Environmental health, from global to local. 1st edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2005.
6Bhattacharya K, Mukherjee SP, Gallud A, et al. Biological interactions of carbon-based nanomaterials: From coronation to degradation. Nanomedicine. 2016 Feb;12(2):333–51.
7Jackson R, Dannenberg A, Frumkin H. Health and the Built Environment: 10 Years After. Am J Public Health. 2013 September;103(9):1542–44.
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