8 environmental factors that affect health


The recent pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerability of our public health systems. The resilience to such emergencies urgently needs to be strengthened in the future. Governments and societies are making increasing efforts to improve aspects of human health and well-being that are determined by environmental factors. Limiting human exposure to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in the air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media will reduce their vulnerability to future pandemics, improve their health, and give impetus to public health systems.

Environmental challenges adversely affect the health of individuals and communities, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the economically vulnerable, pregnant women and children. Medical conditions like malignant growths, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease and many more are directly related to the increased pollution and water pollution. Appropriately addressing the various environmental issues that affect health can improve health and protect life from the harmful toxic effects of pollutants.

The following are some of the specific environmental factors that can affect human health and well-being.

air pollution

Air pollution is caused by hazardous solid or liquid particles and certain gases suspended in the air. These particles and gases can come from car and truck exhaust, factories, dust, pollen, mold spores, volcanoes and forest fires, etc.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause various health problems. It massively increases the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even lung cancer. More serious are people with pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant women, infants and children, the elderly and the economically vulnerable. The most toxic pollutants that lead to serious illness and premature death are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into the lungs.

water pollution

Water is life. It is one of the most important natural resources on which all living things depend. Water pollution is the contamination of water sources by substances that make the water unsuitable for drinking, cooking, farming, cleaning, swimming and other activities. Pollutants include chemicals, plastics, garbage, bacteria, and parasites, etc. Major sources of water pollution are the release of toxic household, industrial, and agricultural waste directly into water streams, population growth, overuse of insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, and urbanization. Oceans are indiscriminately polluted by plastic waste, which has detrimental effects on marine life and indirectly affects humans, leading to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, etc.

environmental chemicals

Exposure to harmful environmental chemicals such as mercury, lead, asbestos, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc. both indoors and outdoors can have many health effects including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, allergies and cancer.

Global environmental problems

According to WHO, worldwide environmental problems such as global warming, pollution, wildfires, poor waste management systems, biodiversity degradation, growing population, greenhouse gas emissions leading to ozone layer depletion, etc. cause more than 12.6 million deaths every year.

Diseases caused by microbes

Diseases such as influenza, measles, typhoid, diarrhea and cholera are caused by microbes. Pathogenic bacteria cause diseases like plague, tuberculosis, and anthrax, while unicellular parasites cause diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, dysentery, etc.

Eating is one of the ways humans can contract infections caused by organisms. One such example is food contamination by E. coli, a microbial species that can cause respiratory diseases, urinary tract disorders, and other adverse health effects.

Lack of access to health care

Patients who are physically unable to drive, who are financially weak, or who cannot obtain transportation to a doctor or hospital for other reasons are often left without care. Lack of education or knowledge about various diseases can also lead to premature suffering or even death. Inadequate health insurance coverage is also a problem. Not all can be insured and therefore do not receive adequate medical care.

infrastructure problems

Good health infrastructure is essential for human well-being. It includes advanced hospitals equipped with cutting-edge technology, machines, specialist doctors, nurses and other paramedical professionals, as well as developed pharmaceutical industries, etc. Poor infrastructure generally leads to poor quality of service, which in turn not only wastes resources but is also positively harmful for the health and well-being of patients and the community at large.

climate change and natural disasters

Climate change affects human health in many ways, including through increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves, storms, hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, landslides, droughts and floods causing death and disease, the disruption of food systems, increases in water – and vector-borne diseases, mental health issues and more. Natural disasters also disrupt the economic well-being of societies and not only affect the health of life on earth.



The views expressed above are the author’s own.



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