Environmental medicine

Environmental medicine

Environmental medicine is a multidisciplinary field involving medicine, environmental science, chemistry and others. The scope of this field involves studying the interactions between environment and human health, and the role of the environment in causing or mediating disease. As a specialist field of study it is looked upon with mixed feelings by physicians and politicians alike, for the basic assumption is that health is more widely and dramatically affected by environmental toxins than previously recognised.

Environmental factors in the causation of environmental diseases can be classified into:

  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Biological
  • Social
  • Any combination of the above

Current focuses of environmental medicine

While environmental medicine is a broad field, some of the currently prominent issues include:

  • The effects of ozone depletion and the resulting increase in UV radiation on humans with regards to skin cancer.
  • The effects of nuclear accidents or the effects of a terrorist dirty bomb attack and the resulting effects of radioactive material and radiation on humans.
  • The effects of chemicals on humans, such as dioxin, especially with regards to cancer.
  • Radon gas exposure in individuals' homes.
  • Air and water pollution on the health of individuals.
  • Mercury poisoning and exposure to humans though including fish and sea life in their diet.
  • Lead poisoning from leaded gasoline, paint, and plumbing.

Beyond the scope of environmental medicine

The fields of virology, which studies viruses, and epidemiology, which studies patterns of disease and injury, while environmental in nature, often are not within the scope of environmental science. In addition, any disease with a large genetic component usually falls outside the scope of environmental medicine.

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