Chapter 8 Environmental Health and Toxicology
Being healthy is defined as having a sense of well-being in three aspects physical, mental, and social. When we talk about health it is often said that you are unhealthy if you have a disease or infirmity but that is not the case. If we use the definition above we all have ways to improve our health. There are a few definitions that we need to know in order to talk about Environmental Health which looks at the factors such as natural, social, cultural, and technological aspects that cause disease.
Disease – A change in the body’s condition in response to a destabilizing factor
Morbidity – Illness or death
Mortality – Death rate in a population.
The World Health Organization or WHO estimate that 24% of world diseases and 23% of premature mortality is due because of some environmental factor. These factors include toxins, infectious agents, Radiation, pollution, and trauma.
Our bodies are like our own ecosystem only 10% is human the other 90 % is bacteria, fungi, protozoans, arthropods, and other species. Often times we think we need to get rid of these things but what we need to do is understand how to live in balance with these things.
Global disease burden is changing
In the past when global health was looked at they often focused on what caused the most deaths that is changing. In more recent times the WHO has been looking at the DALYs which stands for the disability-adjusted life expectancy. This measures premature death along with loss of a healthy life that resulted from disease. The ranking of the top diseases has seen and will continue to see a huge transformation as communicable diseases such as malaria and smallpox are prevented and chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer rise. If we are looking at more then just life but also the quality of life there is another major disease on the rise and that is mental health problems. Tobacco is also going to increase the number of deaths as more people especially in developing countries get addicted to tobacco. This brings on emphysema, asthma, and lung cancer.
Emergent and infectious diseases still kill millions of people
Over 11 million children a year die from infectious diseases that could be avoided with better nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and inexpensive vaccinations. Emergent disease are those that are not known or have not been seen for over 20 years. There have been over 40 of these outbreaks in the past 20 years. Each country in the world is tied to each other as global markets link trade it also links the ability for new diseases to travel from one continent to another. The best know case of an emergent disease is HIV/AIDs. This disease was not known about until 1980 and now has become the 5th greatest cause for contagious deaths.
Conservation medicine combines ecology and health care
Humans are not the only species that are facing diseases. Animals are also facing diseases that wipe out great numbers. These sudden and widespread diseases are called ecological diseases. Some examples of this is Ebola found to have wiped out possibly 5,000 gorillas. Botulism that has been found in birds that have died by the hundreds in one area. CWD which has been the killer or deer and elk. Mad Cow disease which started as a disease in cows and was transferred to people killing over 100 before it was contained. All of these disease are caused by an imbalance in normal biological conditions.
Climate change can also bring about more of these disease. As human encroachment occurs species widen their territories bringing with them a disruption in the delicate ecological balance.
Resistance to antibiotics and pesticides is increasing
Antibiotics and pesticides are beginning to not wok because sometimes to much of a good thing is bad. What I mean is that people are using medicines and pesticides for prevention instead of a cure and so the organisms that they are fighting breed evolved species that are resistant to the antibiotics and pesticides.
Should we pay for health care?
The vast majority of disease burden is in developing countries. The WHO estimated that 90% of disease burdens are in countries that spend only about 10% of all money spent on health care. It is amazing when we think that people in developed countries are worried about diseases such as hair loss and obesity while people in the developing countries are dying of treatable diseases because they don’t have access to preventative medicines. The U.S. only contributes about 12% of the money that helps developing countries. It is said that helping rid the world of curable disease would increase the overall health of the world. This is because more people would be able to contribute to the world. The bottom line for selfish developed nations helping the less developed might earn you more friends and also make it so diseases won’t cross over borders into developed countries.
Toxicology is the damaging effects on an organism or system because of external forces. Toxic means poisonous. The book states “Toxicology includes environmental chemicals, drugs, and diet as well as physical factors, such as iodizing radiation, UV light, and electromagnetic forces.” (Principles of Environmental Science, Cunningham, pg.188) Toxic substances kill or damage living organisms by interfering with metabolic functions by reacting with cellular components. Toxins are dangerous at small doses. Scientist in this field also study the reactions transformations and effects these toxins have in the environment. This is usually called Environmental toxicology. Things that are said to be hazardous are not necessarily toxic. Hazardous also includes things that are flammable, explosive, acidic, caustic, irritants, or sensitizers. These things are not toxic and can usually be neutralized or diluted rendering them not hazardous.
Endrocrine hormone disrupters are of special concern
It is a concern that endocrine hormone disrupters cause a variety of problems in humans. Hormones are released into the body and it said that some exposure to toxins limits the amount of hormones released causing abnormal growth and development.
Movement, Distribution, and Fate of Toxins
Each toxin has to be look at differently to determine the effects on organisms. The method of exposure, how long the exposure, characteristics of the organism being exposed, all determine the danger or toxicity that occurs.
Solubility and mobility determine when and where chemicals move
One of the biggest factors in understanding how, where, and when a toxic material will flow through the environment is solubility. Chemicals can be looked at in two groups 1. They dissolve faster in water. 2. They dissolve faster in oil. Chemicals that dissolve faster in water spread through the environment more and faster because water is ubiquitous. They also have freer access to our body because our cells soak up water. Chemicals that are oil-soluble often need a host to carry them through the environment and into your body. After they enter the body they are hard to get rid of because they are often seen as other natural chemicals your body produces and protected.
Exposure and susceptibility determine how we respond
There are many different ways in which a toxin can enter into the body. Airborne toxins are the biggest way toxins enter our bodies. The other leading way are through touching the toxin and ingesting the toxin. How much you are exposed to and when you are exposed also have a huge affect on the toxicity. Children are more susceptible because their immune systems are not as strong, and they are still growing. Toxics can damage or limit the growth of the brain and nervous system.
Bioaccumulation and biomagnification increases chemical concentrations
Bioaccumulation is the bodies cells ability to store and absorb a variety of molecules. This is a beneficial process when the body stores nutrients and essential minerals but can be dangerous if the body choices to store toxins that you have come in contact with. Chemicals that are in small amounts in the environment may not seem dangerous but when they are held by a single cell they can have disastrous consequences.
Toxic chemicals can also be magnified as they travel through food webs. This is often shown in biomagnification. This is when a large number of organisms that have toxicity and eaten by a predator at a higher trophic level and the toxicity level increases in the predator and this continues to occur up the food chain.
Persistence makes some materials a greater threat
Many toxic substances loose their toxicity when exposed to the sun but this doesn’t happen to all toxins. Some toxins can last for centuries as the continually cycle through the ecosystem. An example of a toxin that does nor disintegrate and is cycled through the environment is Mercury. The graph below shows it’s flow through the environment.
Chemical interactions can increase toxicity
Some chemical work make other chemicals react. This is called antagonistic reactions. Other chemicals are additive which mean that when you are exposed to two different chemicals one make the other one have a higher toxicity. The greatest concern about chemical interactions is actually Synergism. This is when one chemical exacerbates another.
Case Study – Fighting the Fiery Serpent: Guinea Worm Eradication Program
The Guinea Worm eradication Program was started in 1986 in the hope of eradicating this disease by 2000. That has not happened but tremendous progress has been made. The Guinea Worm is a parasite that enters the body through drinking stagnant water. The larvae hatches and the worm grow in the body to reach up to 3 ft long. It then emerges from the body causing excruciating pain and fever but not before it often releases more larva starting the process again. The cycle can take months to complete. The Guinea Worm disease cannot be cured after infected so the only way to stop the spread is education. This education came in the form of letting people know how they acquire Guinea Worms, making purified water more accessible, and teaching how to purify water. This disease in 1986 infect some 3.5 million people. That number is down 96%. This project proved that community education can make a huge difference in developing countries.
Chapter 12 Energy
Energy Resources and Uses
For over a million years humans have learned to use a variety of sources to produce external energy. Fire was the first external energy force used by humans. Next came Muscle power from domesticated animals came about 10,000 years ago. Wind and Waterpower came soon after. When the steam engine was created and wood was beginning to be seen as a diminishing resource coal became the big source for energy. In the twentieth century oil has become the new energy force. Fossil Fuels, which consist of petroleum, natural gas, and coal, make up 88% of the world’s energy needs. We are using so much fossil fuel that it is causing horrible effects on the environment and also economic problems. The world as a whole does seem to be headed into reducing the use of fossil fuels by looking into renewable energy.
How do we measure energy?
As we look at energy it is a little difficult to understand how we measure energy. First Work is the force over a distance this is measured in joules. Energy is the ability to do work and Power is the rate the work is done or the rate of the energy flow. Things like light bulbs are measured in watts. A watt is one joule per second.
Fossil fuels supply most of our energy
Most of the energy in the US is supplied by fossil fuels. Broken down it looks like this Oil 37%, Natural Gas 24% and Coal 23%. The top 20 countries or only one-fifth of the world population consume over half of the worlds energy supply. So it is these countries that need to learn to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. The other two types of power we need to look at are renewable resources and nuclear power. Renewable resources include solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectricity. These make up only 7% of the US energy supply. Nuclear power provides 9% all of that electricity.
How do we use energy?
Our energy consumption can be broken down into 4 major categories Industrial, Commercial, Residential, and Transportation.
Industrial makes up 31% of the energy consumption this includes mining, milling, smelting, trying to gain the natural resources. It also includes the manufacturing of products.
Commercial and Residential consume about 41%. The uses for this group include heating, air conditioning, water heating, and electricity.
Transportation uses 28% and 98% of that are petroleum refined into gas and diesel. Creating transportation energy also takes energy and wastes energy. The process to refine petroleum into gas and diesel looses about half of the energy that is found in raw petroleum.
Fossil Fuels are classified as carbon-based compounds. These compounds are made from decomposed organisms that have been in bedded in rock for hundreds of millions of years.
Coal resources are vast
Coal deposits are 10x greater throughout the world then petroleum and gas deposits. The problem that we have with coal is that it is environmentally unfriendly to extract. Coal mining is dirty and causes major health risks to miners and also the environment. Underground mines often cause lose of life for those who work there, this to cave-ins, explosions, and lung disease brought on by the coal dust. Other forms of extraction have been used that are better for humans but not the environment. One form is mountain to p removal, which just scrapes away earth until coal is found. This way damages the surrounding ecosystem and leaves piles of unwanted rock and soil.
Coal is also not environmental friendly to the atmosphere. Coal burning releases CO2 this causes global climate change. Coal also has impurities in it that are released when it is burned such as lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, sulfur and nitrogen oxides. These impurities cause numerous problems such as acid rain. Coal also produces coal ash that has to be stored somewhere that contains high levels of impurities that are harmful if released into water supplies.
New plants could be cleaner
There is a new plant design called IGCC, which reduces the problems with burning coal. This design does not burn the coal but turns it into gas separates out the impurities and then burns the what is needed to make electricity. The cost of these facilities are more expensive to build but that cost is recuperated over time. China is the best at trying to switch to these plants they currently have 18 running while the US only has 1. If the rest of the world especially those with huge coal deposits would switch to these plants global warming would be greatly reduced.
Have we passed peak oil?
Peak oil is the time in which the amount of oil able to be extracted from the earth starts declining. This was said to have happened in the United States in around 1970. Worldwide this is said to have happened or be happening in the last few years. Only about half of the worlds oil supply is thought to be able to be recovered. The rest is to hard or to deep to extract. Of that amount we are only going to last another 41 years on the remainder if our dependence on oil doesn’t decrease.
Domestic oil supplies are limited
If the US stopped all imports of oil we would only be able to go 4.2 years before we ran out entirely. Any potential for new oil projects are in open waters, Alaska, and other remote places that provide wildlife sanctuaries, fisheries, and are difficult to drill into. Oil that is extracted in open waters runs a very high risk. When there is an explosion or a break in a pipe oil is released into the ocean. This kills aquatic ecosystems and threatens untold number of birds. This oil then washes up on shore and out into the ocean doing more damage.
Oil shales and tar sands contain huge amounts of petroleum
Oil Shales and Tar sands contain petroleum as well but are harder and more costly to extract. However, since the price of raw crude has climbed it has become more looked at. Canada has huge amounts of Tar sands and is currently the largest importer of US oil. This comes at a high price because Canada’s extraction from the Tar sands toxic sludge, releases green house gases, and contaminates huge amounts of ground water each year.
Natural gas is growing in importance
Natural gas produces less CO2 emission then coal and so is more environmentally friendly. Russia has ¼ of all natural gas. World consumption is growing for natural gas at a rate of 2.2% each year. Taping into natural gas lines does destroy land and raises concern about water pollution. We also import gas and that has risks. Shipping natural gas is extremely risky because if one of the specialized vessels blow it could do the damage of a medium atomic bomb.
The simplest solution to energy conservation is just to use less. This can be accomplished by a modification in behavior and also technology. If each of us look at our energy footprint and make choices that would shrink our footprint as a world the energy consumption would decrease. This can be done by buying products that take less energy. Advancements in the automotive field have made cars available that are part electric and also get up to 72 mpg this compared to a vehicle that gets 10-15 like a full size truck would greatly reduce your footprint. Other advances in home building and maintenance can greatly reduce our footprint.
Green building can cut energy costs by half
Green building has become very popular in both commercial and residential properties. This includes building to improve energy wastes such as using extra insulation so heat or AC don’t escape the property. It includes using recycled materials so that there is less production cost. It also involves looking into and using technologies that use less energy or are on times that shut of when they are not needed. This building also uses the idea that if we maximize the power of the sun in industrial design.
Cogeneration makes electricity from waste heat
Cogeneration is the production of electricity and heat at the same time. This is the fastest growing new energy source. This is done at a plant that makes electricity but captures heat in the form of steam or hot water to then be used.
Case Study – Exploiting Oil in ANWR
There is a small strip of land in the Artic National Wildlife Reserve that has been the source of debate for nearly 25 years. This debate has been about oil. This area of land is projected to have the last largest deposits of extractable petroleum and natural gas. This area is home to a large herd or caribou and also 200 other species of wildlife. Environmentalists believe that drilling cannot be done without damage to the wildlife, and their habitat. Oil companies disagree saying that they could go in and extract the oil and natural gas with leaving little environmental footprints and not hurting the wildlife. This debate has been going for years and in 2005 Congress passed a bill to allow exploration in this area. Whether or not the oil companies can do what they said has yet to be seen.
Chapter 15 Environmental Policy and Sustainability
Environmental Policy and Law
Environmental Policy is the rules and regulations set to protect the environment and public health. A lot of people do not realize the number of laws that protect water, air, land, and biodiversity. Usually these laws and regulation are made by the government systems where things are debated, and compromised.
What drives policy making?
Often policies are made or adjusted to fit in with the views of those who hold power. This includes economic interest groups, labor unions, industry associations, or wealthy and powerful individuals. Many policies are also created because of public citizenship policies brought about because someone or something was trying to change the quality of life for another which made those involved demand protection or change. This could be said to be the biggest reason for most policies.
Policy creation follows a cycle
There is a policy cycle that is used when it is being created. The steps of this cycle are as followed.
Identify problem- This is started by one individual or group and then given a voice when it is taken to government officials.
Set agenda-This is looking at the problem and coming up with the ideas of how to change the given outcome.
Develop proposals- A proposal is created , define terms, set agendas and set the policy up is done in this stage.
Build support – This is usually crucial for a policy to become a law or a rule. This involves getting the public aware as well as policy makers in order to show the need and support for the policy.
Enact law or rule – This step includes the actual vote that passes or block new policies.
Implement policy – This step includes carrying out the rule or law hopefully government provides services and enforcement to make sure people follow the new law or rule.
Evaluate results – Every law expires over time and needs to be reevaluated to determine it’s effectiveness
Suggest change- If changes need to be made the cycle starts over again with identifying the problem.
Major Environmental Laws
NEPA established public oversight
The biggest part of U.S. environmental policy was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970 and is the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. This agency does three very important things.
- The NEPA establishes a board called Council on Environmental Quality which oversees general environmental conditions.
- It directs federal agencies to look at and take into account environmental consequences into account as the look at policies.
- It requires a environmental impact statement to be published for the public to see on any federal project that is likely to have effects on environmental quality.
An EIIS is mandated to projects that would have a significant impact on the environment this is often a decision of debate on whether or not a project should do an EIS. The EIS is time consuming costly and has to have these elements. The purpose and need for the project, alternatives to the proposed action, positive and negative environmental impacts. The EIS should also look at the short term and long term.
The Clean Air Act regulates air emissions
The Clean Air Act in 1970 was the first after the establishment of NEPA. This legistration regulates air emissions. It sets rules and that identify, monitor and reduce air pollutions. The majority of the work done by the CAA is in monitoring just seven pollutants. These include sulfur oxides, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates or dust, volatile organic compounds, and metals. Most of these have declines except the nitrogen oxides which is emitted from vehicles.
The Clean Water Act protects surface water
The Clean Water Act was established in 1972 and is in charge of protecting surface water. The goal of the policy was to make water “fishable and swimmable” which means it should be safe enough for humans and aquatic ecosystems. They started this by finding source pollutants that were running into water and regulating what was allowed to be dumped. By 1980 point source pollutants were for the most part under control. The CWA then started looking non-point sources of water pollutants.
The Endangered Species Act protects wildlife
In 1973 The Endangered Species Act was adopted into law. The ESA provides guidelines for listing animals and plants that are endangered, threatened or vulnerable. These animals that are on this list are then protected along with their habitat by rules from the ESA. The ESA is often in the middle of controversy because developers want land that might have endangered species in it. In 2010 their were 1,969 species on the ESA list 753 are plants.
The Superfund Act lists hazardous sights
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was put into law in 1980. This policy is also known as the Superfund Act because it’s funding was suppose to come from industrial producers of hazardous waste. This is not longer the case the policy is funded now by tax dollars. The CERCLA has identified over 47,000 sites that require clean-up it is their objective to clean up the sites and try to hold responsible the polluters.
How Are Policies Made?
The laws such as the CAA, CWA, NEPA, ESA, and the Superfund are the major laws in the U.S. regarding the environment. These all started at the local level and worked there way up to being a national law. Environmental policies exist at the local, national, and international level. In the U.S. National laws can be established or changed in all three branches of the government.
The legislative branch establishes statutes
The legislative branch of the government is the making of the laws. This incorporates legislators at a local level who represent the public in the house and in congress. Policies are written and voted on to become a law. Often policies are vague in order to get them passed and then it is up to the judicial branch to determine if a law has been broken.
The Judicial Branch resolves legal disputes
The judicial branch of government is often tied up in cases that involve the environment. After a law has been made there is often times when someone breaks the law or complains that the law is not constitutional. These cases then become the problem of the judicial branch where judges have to decide to what extent if any the law was broken, what the consequence should be if found guilty and if the law is constitutional.
The Executive Branch directs administrative law
This is the head of the government. The president is in this branch and has many ways to change environmental policies without a vote in congress. In this Branch you have the president and other agencies such as the EPA, Department of Interior, and Department of Agriculture. These agencies do not have to go through the legislative branch and often has the ability to change rules. The department of the Interior also runs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is in charge or endangered species protection.
Since one nation cannot make laws or policies for another international cooperation is necessary. Over the past 25 years over 170 different treaties and conventions have been made to protect our environment world wide.
Major International Agreements
Their have been over 170 treaties and conventions but the most important are listed below.
Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species – This 1973 policy set up enforcement that limited endangered species to be traded across international boundaries.
Montreal Protocol – This 1987 treaty made nations phase out production of some chemicals that break down the ozone layer. This was effective because even those nations that did not sign the treaty could not sell these chemicals to the nations that did sign the treaty.
The Basel Convention-This 1992 International Policy restricts hazardous waste from being transported across boundaries.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change- This 1994 convention set up sharing data between nations on climate change, setting up plans to deal with climate change and also encouraged the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Kyoto Protocol – This treaty set targets for the nations on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. The U.S. and China the two largest producers of GHG did not sign this treaty.
Enforcement often depends on national pride
Most countries enforce the treaties because they do not want to look bad in the eyes of the international world. Often times at the conventions or summits nonbinding policies emerge. These happen when the vast majority feel one way but no strict decision is made or signed so it is just a verbal we will try to do this.
What Can Individuals Do?
There are many aspects in improving the environment from the scientific exploration, education, writing and illustrating policy and action. All of these aspects take a variety of people it takes more then just the scientist. It is our responsibility to get involved if we want change.
Environmental education supports society
It is often said what I don’t know won’t hurt me but that is not true when we are talking about the environment. Education is the key to changing the environment. It has been said that we all need to have a Environmental literacy. This means a working knowledge of our environment and the systems within it.
Citizen science lets everyone participate
Many students that are in college do internships, and undergraduate studies in the environmental field. There is a way for everyone to get involved in environmental studies even if you are out of school new programs called citizen science are becoming popular. These programs group scientist with everyday people to study and analyze real life environmental problems.
How much is enough?
Developing countries over the years have increased the things that they have not necessarily for a better lifestyle just a different one. Many people are into shopping to fulfill themselves others buy things to impress. We as a society need to look at ourselves and assess why we are buying, and using the things we are. It is said that the world is at rat race and each of us is a rat. It is our choice how fast and what damage we do to the maze. If each of us would look at our environmental footprint and try to reduce it just a little collectively it would have a major effect on the environment as a whole.
Case Study – Should We Revise the 1872 Mining Law?
In 1872 a law was put into place that was called the General Mining Act. This law allows anyone to mine for minerals on public land and then keep what they find for themselves. This law also allows people to stake claims on land parcels and buy the land for just $2.50 an acre. After they stake this claim they can treat the land like any private land could be treated. Environmentalists think that this law needs to be changed because some are exploiting the law and gaining profit that should not be theirs. They also believe that a law should be put into place that charges mining companies and individuals that mine on public lands to pay royalty fees to the government. Many new bills have been put before Congress but as of now nothing can be compromised to appease both miners and environmental groups.