Environment is the sum total of the surroundings that humans live in and affect our existence on earth. It encompasses everything around us – the air we breathe, the water on this planet, the animals & plants and even human activities and their consequences. A supportive and safe environment is vital for human health and wellness. Good health is dependent on outdoor & indoor air quality, safe drinking water, nutritious food, location of home and minimal toxic substances in the surrounding. Even factors like absence of noise pollution and habitable climate promotes healthy environment.
How environment makes you unwell?
The surrounding environmental greatly impacts our physical and mental health. Humans exposed to unhealthy environment with toxins and hazardous waste in air and water are prone to health issues. Here is a lowdown on some of the health risks associated with environment:
Outdoor and indoor air pollution
Human health is dependent on clean air that provides oxygen for vital life functions. Poor air quality and exposure to harmful gases and participates, is linked to health conditions like cardiovascular disease, asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. Non-smokers, like children of smoking parents or spouse of a smoking person, experience indoor air pollution. Passive smokers are subjected to health hazards that are similar to active smokers. Infants living with smokers have low birthweight and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). Children of smoking households have health problems like asthma, lower respiratory tract infections and middle ear infections. Second-hand smoking adults are likely to suffer from ischaemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
Unsafe drinking water
Safe drinking water, both groundwater as well as surface water, affects the health and wellbeing of people living in the environment. Protecting the water sources and minimizing contamination is a vital part of livable environment. Unsafe drinking water is a primary cause of gastrointestinal diseases like diarrhea. Similarly, contaminated recreational water can lead to diarrhea, or infection in eyes, ears, nose and throat.
Good health is linked to a balanced diet, providing the body with vital nutrients. The food you eat should provide carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in adequate amount. A diet deficient in essential micronutrients like vitamins & minerals leads to deficiency diseases like goiter, anemia, beriberi, pellagra, scurvy, rickets and more. Human body needs vitamin D for bone growth and healthy functioning of the immune system. But over exposure to UV rays can cause melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer or eye cataracts.
Toxic & hazardous substances present in the surrounding environment is likely to cause health conditions like poisoning, burns and dermatitis. Inhaling air containing asbestos fibers for a long time is known to cause breathing difficulties, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Both children and adults may be affected by lead poisoning, which takes place when too much lead gets into the body through the skin, air, food or water. Lead poisoning in infants & children leads to developmental delays and behavioral problems, while in adults it causes high blood pressure.
People living in homes exposed to high levels of noise are affected by the detrimental environment. Too much noise in the environment leads to health conditions such as insomnia, cardiovascular problems, hearing loss and psychophysiological problems. Communities located in areas close to the main traffic arteries, railway lines or airports have health issues arising out of noise pollution. Similarly, noisy working environment negatively affects the health and wellbeing of workers.
Climatic impact on health
Areas with extreme climate conditions – too hot or too cold weather – are uninhabitable as they affect human health. Changes in climate may make habitable environment hostile to humans as it leads to increase in infectious diseases such as giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis and salmonellosis. People suffer from heat stroke in extremely hot climate, while extreme cold climate causes hypothermia that may even lead to death.
Environment factors like air, water, food and climate are closely related to human health. It is in the benefit of humans to live in harmony with environment. A healthy environment also includes a positive community, which fosters mental health due to positive vibes and actions. So, maintaining a positive environment that includes societal factors, goes a long way in ensuring health and wellness.