Your home environment has the most immediate impact on your health, but your work environment can also be important. And the good news is that you have some control over both.
What Is Personal Environmental Health?
In your home, the important environmental factors include:
- Air quality: Your home air quality can be severely compromised by common chemicals used for cleaning or lawn care, standard heating/ventilation systems and building materials, and everyday household nuisances like dust and mold. Dander from pets can also impact your home's air quality, as can fumes from cigarette smoke.
- Water source: What's your water source? In most American communities, we're fortunate to enjoy clean, potable water. However, city water can contain lead from older pipes. Same with well water, which can also be tainted by impurities leached from soil. And the solution isn't necessarily bottled water, which can contain contaminants not only from its source, but from its plastic container.
- Food source and quality: Trite but true: you are what you eat. Consuming foods that have been grown with the aid of certain pesticides or hormones, augmented by artificial colors or flavors, or preserved with chemicals can impact your health. The air and noise pollution produced by transporting foods long distances and the soil and water damage caused by pesticides are also important considerations.
- Electromagnetic fields: Do you watch TV, use a computer, cook with a microwave, or chat on a cell phone? Then you're exposed to electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, produced by electrically charged objects. There is debate about whether these fields pose a danger (the World Health Organization sounds a caution, but American organizations maintain there is no issue), but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take easy steps to limit exposure.
- Sound and visual pollution: Can't get any respite from jets, jackhammers and other noisemakers? Sound pollution affects everyone, even if it's only the constant drone of a leaf blower or a blaring stereo. What you see also impacts your mood. Cluttered, dirty, or damaged settings increase stress, which can impact your emotional perspective and your physical health.
A healthy home environment also contributes to, rather than detracts from, its immediate vicinity. It does not negatively impact the plants, animals, or people "living downstream" from it by emitting toxins, such as cleaning or gardening byproducts, into its surroundings. A healthy home also contributes to sustainability, minimizing waste and utilizing and refreshing local resources.
You face many of the same health challenges on the job as you do at home. For example, in an older building, there could be lead in the drinking water. Or if your workplace is unavoidably noisy, such as a construction site, your sound pollution risk is increased.
However, the most common workplace environmental concern is air quality. This is particularly true in manufacturing, farming, mining, cleaning/maintenance, and other professions that rely heavily on chemical use.
International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of World Health Organization) Report on Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:
National Institute of Environment Health Sciences study on cell phone use
National Cancer Institute page on cell phone use and cancer risk
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