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What are the Most Common Environmental Health Issues?

By Debra Bacon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A variety of pollutants present in the environment often lead to a pattern associated with the most common environmental health issues facing society. The most notable conditions are respiratory and chronic lung disease, including asthma. Others common health issues that may be linked to the environment include cancer, brain disorders and tumors, social disorders, an hyperactivity and other behavioral problems.

These environmental health issues affect the public health because the cause for many illnesses related to environmental hazards overlap. Many of the same contaminants are found in the air, soil, and water, so pinpointing a definitive reason for the associated medical conditions is not always possible. E. Coli and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) serve as examples of outbreaks that are passed to humans, through food and air causing serious environmental health issues.

An outbreak of disease caused by the environment threatens public health. As a result, government agencies often become involved with local and regional governments to address effective ways to reduce or eliminate the threat. In the United States, these agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The EPA and CDC further provide information to public health agencies, and to the public at large, regarding health and safety measures people can take to create a safer home, work, and general environment.

Unborn children, young children, and the elderly are at greater risk when it comes to environmental health issues. Parental exposure to environmental hazards, such as lead components, pesticides, and carcinogens, can increase the risk of auto-immune deficiencies, cancer, and neurological disorders in children. While lead has been removed in most places from many products, such as paint and gasoline, it still may exist in food, soil, dust particles, and water from the faucet. Lead has been identified as causing neurological problems, and is also linked to social disorders and hyperactivity in children.

Pesticides used on crops and those used in the household setting to eliminate insects and rodents, are known to cause central nervous system problems and poisoning. Some may be transmitted to people through the food supply. Pesticides also pass through the air, soil, and water supplies.

As the ozone layer diminishes, leaving holes where harmful ultraviolet rays pass through to the earth, people are affected in many ways. Respiratory problems are on the rise because of air pollutants and carcinogens. Asthma is becoming one of the most serious environmental health issues, besides cancer.

Growing concerns surrounding public health and the environment have brought about debates and discussions around the globe. More agencies and governments are seeking the truth behind what environmental pollutants are damaging the public health. With the search for truth, there has been growing change regarding environmental hazards, health and safety concerns, and the public health. It has also increased awareness of the many different environmental health issues.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Aug 09, 2014

@Ana1234 - I don't like minimizing the health concerns of anyone, but I'm not sure that the average person in the Western world realizes what life would be like if there was no government regulation around food and water.

Some global environmental health issues include people getting sick because they literally have no sewage system and their local water gets polluted. That's not something that people in the Western world have to worry about.

By Ana1234 — On Aug 08, 2014

@pastanaga - There are still plenty of environmental health issues happening all around the world that need addressing. Even iodine deficiency, which has been identified as having an extremely easy fix (adding iodine to salt) is still a concern in some places in the world.

I do think that people get concerned about the wrong things when they get up in arms about fluoride being added to the water supply, but don't seem to care about the industrial pollutants that are constantly streaming into the air. But I don't think the concern is the problem, just that it's being misdirected towards so-called problems that aren't actually problems.

By pastanaga — On Aug 07, 2014

It's kind of ironic how we actually live in the safest time ever to be alive, but people are more paranoid about being put in danger. It used to be very common for people to be exposed to huge amounts of lead, in their water supply and in everyday products. I read somewhere that our IQs have actually grown by several points on average because we identified lead poisoning as a health issue and took steps to stop it from happening.

But people seem to be more anxious than ever, to the point where they think there are all kinds of conspiracies going on.

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