Just as each cell in your body works together to create who you are, so does the environment in which you live. The quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the soil your food grows in all play an essential role in your overall health. Here’s a look at how your health is intertwined with the environment and what you can do to protect both.
How the Environment Affects Your Health
There are many ways in which the environment can impact both your physical and mental health. For example, exposure to outdoor air pollution can cause respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and can even lead to depression.
Poor indoor air quality can lead to respiratory problems and other health issues like headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Drinking contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea and vomiting. And contact with hazardous materials like lead or asbestos can cause serious health problems like cancer.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself from environmental hazards. For example, you can avoid exposure to outdoor air pollution by staying indoors on days when air quality is poor or wearing a mask when you go outside. You can improve indoor air quality by making sure your home is well-ventilated and keeping it free of dust and other contaminants.
You can protect yourself from contaminated water by drinking only bottled or boiled water and avoiding swimming in bodies of water that may be contaminated. And finally, you can avoid contact with hazardous materials by being careful when handling them and wearing appropriate protective gear when necessary.
Notable Environmental Factors That Affect Health
The Place You Live
The land around you can have a profound impact on your health. Living close to land that is being used for farming or ranching can expose you to harmful chemicals and dust particles. Likewise, living near land that is being mined can increase your risk of respiratory illnesses. And if the land around your home is being developed or noisy, you may be at risk for noise pollution, increased traffic, or negatively impacted mental health.
And while some factors, like air pollution, are beyond your control, others, like land use, are up to you. So if you feel the place you live in is negatively impacting your health, don’t hesitate to look for a new place to move to. Considering other properties for sale or for rent could be the key to improving your health.
The Air You Breathe
The air quality where you live has a direct impact on your health. Exposure to air pollution has even been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Several things contribute to poor air quality, such as vehicle emissions, power plants, factories, and agricultural activities. Burning fossil fuels releases harmful chemicals into the air, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. These chemicals contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain.
Ozone depletion also harms air quality by allowing more ultraviolet rays from the sun to reach the earth’s surface. This can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and suppressed immune systems.
You can protect yourself from poor air quality by staying informed about local air conditions. You can also help reduce pollution by conserving energy, using public transportation, and recycling.
The Water You Drink
Like the air you breathe, the water you drink also impacts your health. Drinking contaminated water can cause respiratory infections and skin rashes. In some cases, contaminated water can even be fatal.
Many things contaminate water supplies, including sewage, pesticides, and industrial waste. Climate change also contributes to water contamination by increasing the frequency and intensity of storms leading to flooding and water infrastructure leaks (such as pipes). Poorly managed landfills can also contaminate groundwater supplies through leaching (the process by which contaminants seep into groundwater).
So what can you do to protect yourself from contaminated water? You can start by being mindful of what goes down your drains (for example, properly disposing of household hazardous waste). You can also support organizations that work to improve water infrastructure and ensure clean drinking water for all.
You need a safe environment to live in, clean air to breathe, and clean water to drink—there’s no getting around that fact. And while it’s easy enough to take these basic necessities for granted, the truth is that your health is directly impacted by the environment in which you live.
The good news is that there are things you can do to protect both your health and the environment. By becoming more aware of how they are connected, you can make choices that will lead to a healthier future for all.