Environmental health

Last updated: February 1, 2022

Environmental health

Ahmed Raza

Our health is greatly affected by the environment in which we live and remains at risk due to the environments of our workplace, household, and transportation. The poor quality of air that we breathe, inadequate sanitation, and unsafe water lead to health hazards. There are prerequisites for health:

Almost 25% of the global burden of disease can be prevented by living in healthy environments. The COVID-19 pandemic is a recent example of the delicate relationship between humans and the earth. It is estimated that twenty-four percent of the global disease and twenty-three percent of deaths worldwide can be associated with poor environmental conditions. About thirty-six percent of children aged from 0 to 14 years are directly affected by poor environments.

Environmental health hazards:

The environment we live in affects our health in numerous ways. The rich environment promotes the quality of human life. However, the reverse is also true. Polluted environments cause disease and death. Pollution increases the risk of asthma, cancer, heart disease, and many other illnesses. These hazards can be social, such as poor housing conditions, dangerous work, poverty, and urban sprawl, or they can be physical, such as toxic chemicals, pollution, and food contaminants.

Drinking unsafe water, poor sanitation, and hygiene cause a variety of infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera, schistosomiasis, meningitis, and gastritis. In 2015, about 350,000 children aged under five years (mostly in developing countries) died from diarrheal diseases due to unsafe water. According to a study, about 1.8 billion people consumed drinking water that was contaminated with feces. An additional two billion people had no access to even basic sanitation.

Air quality:

Polluted air is the main environmental risk to health and causes about 2 million premature deaths annually across the world. A reduction of air pollution reduces the global burden of disease from respiratory infections. Air pollution can make it difficult for those with asthma and other breathing disorders to live a longer life.

Air pollution affects human health seriously. One-third of deaths are caused by lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Lung cancer and heart disease may be reduced by ensuring unpolluted air. Tiny pollutants present in the air can slip past our body’s defenses, and penetrate deep into our respiratory and circulatory systems. It leads to great damage to our heart, brain, and lungs.

Invisible and inhalable particulate substances like lead, sulfur oxides, nitrogen, and low-level ozone impose risks to our health. Diseases like throat congestion, eye irritation, coughing, sinus congestion, headache, asthma, acute bronchitis, and shortness of breath are caused by air pollution.

Water quality:

The use of unsafe drinking or bathing water can impose serious risks to our health. Contaminated groundwater due to sewage outfalls and a high concentration of nutrients in marine and coastal waters due to agricultural runoff cause the most serious hazards.

Poor sanitation and contaminated water are the main sources to spread diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, polio, and typhoid.

The insects that live and breed in water carry and transmit diseases such as dengue fever across the world. These insects are known as vectors, and breed in clean water, rather than dirty water. The household drinking water containers can serve as their breeding grounds. Proper covering of water storage containers can minimize vector breeding and reduce fecal contamination of water in our homes.

Land pollution effects on human health:

Land pollution covers almost all areas of our world, including:

The most serious effects of soil contamination on our health include congenital defects, breathing disorders, cancer, and skin diseases.

Climate Effects on Health:

Climate change, combined with other natural or man-made health hazards, affects our health and causes disease in many ways.

The disruptions of biological, physical, and ecological systems, including other disturbances affect public health in the United States. These health effects include respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, injuries, and increased mortality due to extreme weather events, changes in habitats, and geographical distribution of food-and water-borne illnesses and infectious diseases.


Poor environmental quality poses a great threat to human health around the globe. People are already facing the dangerous health effects of environmental degradation. It could become significantly worse over the next fifty years. As the environment and health are intimately linked together, the related policies should be made accordingly.

Although the outdoor air quality has improved since the 1990s, many challenges still exist in protecting Americans from air quality problems. Particle pollution, ground-level ozone, and smog are just a couple of the many threats to air quality and public health in the United States.



Last reviewed and updated by on Jan 28, 2022

Caitlin Goodwin, DNP, RN, CNM, is a Board Certified Nurse-Midwife, Registered Nurse, and freelance writer. She has over twelve years of experience in nursing practice.

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