Introduction to Environmental Health Americans are preoccupied with their health. Organic foods have never been more popular, supermarkets are full of dietary supplements and healthy living maga- zines, and TV commercials tout the benefi ts of the latest miracle pharmaceuticals. Exercise and dieting have become part of the daily routine for millions of Ameri- cans, as more people are kicking the smoking habit or never starting in the fi rst place. Why all the interest in health? We have learned that being healthy makes you feel better, enjoy life more, and be more productive at work. However, sometimes our preoccupation with health is driven more by fear that if we do not take good care of ourselves, we may de- velop some dreaded, life-threatening disease. Despite our efforts to live healthy lives and have regular checkups at the doctor’s offi ce, heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke are all too common in America, and many people also suffer from diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, infl uenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease. No matter how healthy our eating habits are and how many trips we make to the gym, some diseases are going to happen anyway—they are hereditary or due to other factors beyond our control. But we often do have control over diseases brought about by environmental factors, that is, factors in our immediate sur- roundings that we can modify or avoid. For example, we can remove toxic chemi- cals from drinking water, avoid areas high in air pollution, eat pesticide-free foods, What Is Environmental Health? Environmental health is a fi eld of science concerned with how the environment infl uences human health and disease. These environmental infl uences include air and water pollution, toxic substances, hazardous wastes, infectious diseases, cli- mate change, contaminated food, radiation, and natural disasters. Environmental health professionals perform a variety of tasks, such as monitoring pollution levels, conducting research into the toxicity of pollutants, cleaning up hazardous material spills, investigating disease outbreaks, developing policies and regulations, and edu- cating the public on environmental health risks.
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