How Does Your Personal Environment Impact Your Wellbeing?
The following environmental factors impact your health in multiple ways:
1. Indoor air quality
- Mold and dust can exacerbate and contribute to the development of chronic conditions like asthma and allergies.
- Secondhand smoke in homes and workplaces poses a significant risk; in fact, the National Cancer Institute states that of the chemicals identified in secondhand smoke, more than 50 have been found to cause cancer.
- Poorly ventilated fireplaces and stoves contribute to your pulmonary disease risk.
- Common construction materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can cause asthma, and formaldehyde (also employed in homebuilding) can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions, and possibly cancer.
2. Water quality
- Water containing lead, often caused by the lead pipes used in older construction, can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells.
- Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts, and chemicals get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use.
- Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical often used in plastic water bottles, appears to mimic the effects of estrogen and may interfere with hormone levels and increase human risk for reproductive disorders.
3. Food source and quality
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that long-term use of high levels of pesticides can cause birth defects, nerve damage, and cancer. Although the EPA carefully monitors pesticide use, consumers should still be aware of potential risks.
- Because their internal organs are still developing, children can be more seriously affected by pesticide exposure.
- Consuming fish with high mercury levels can have serious ramifications. Once industrial mercury enters a waterway, naturally occurring bacteria absorb it and convert it to a form called methyl mercury. When humans eat fish tainted with this mercury, it acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially sensitive to mercury's effects.
- If your food travels more than you do, know that shipping produce worldwide creates air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, both potential health hazards.
4. Electromagnetic field exposure (EMF)
- In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a component of the World Health Organization, classified radiofrequency fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence from human studies. American organizations and governmental agencies, such as the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute, generally take the position that the current scientific evidence has not conclusively linked radiofrequency fields--such as cell phones--with any adverse health problems, but that but more research is needed.
5. Sights and sounds
- Our home and work environments affect our emotional as well as our physical health.
- Among other things, research reveals that our physical surroundings can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies in multiple ways.
- Noise can increase stress, which over the long term can lead to disorders as serious as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
- Visual “noise” increases stress. A cluttered, dirty, or confusing environment can cause us to feel worried, sad, or helpless.
- By contrast, a “healing environment” can make us feel safe, pleasantly stimulated, and relaxed.
- Worksite noise exposure is a leading cause of hearing loss.