Pollutants in the environment are a major source of human exposure to polluted air, noise, and toxic substances. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that environmental stresses are responsible for 12-18 per cent of all fatalities in the 53 nations of the WHO Europe Region. Improving environmental quality in critical aspects such as air, water, and noise can help avoid disease and promote human and environmental health. In this regard, there are multiple environmental health careers that one can consider in bringing about social change in the world.
What is Environmental Health?
Environmental Health (EH) is a part of public health that deals with all components of the natural and constructed environment that may impact human health. Other terms for environmental health include environmental public health and environmental health and protection.
EH is a branch of research that investigates how the environment affects human health and illness. In this sense, “environment” refers to recognizing and addressing how the environment affects human health.
EH can be broadly divided into five categories: Physical, chemical, biological, social, and cultural.
What are the 5 Major Categories of Environmental Health?
The 5 significant types of environmental health hazards are physical, chemical, biological, social, and cultural.
Physical hazards are substances or circumstances that endanger our physical well-being. These include fires, explosive materials, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), noise, radiation, spills on floors, and unsecured machines.
Chemical hazards occur when a person is exposed to a hazardous chemical at home or at work. Chemicals can be gases, solids, or liquids, and exposure to them might result in serious health consequences.
Biological hazards are organisms or organism by-products that are hazardous or potentially detrimental to humans. Pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites are among them, as are toxins (poisons) released by organisms.
Social hazards include poverty and illiteracy. Alcoholism, obesity, smoking, and drug abuse are all societal risks to our health.
Culture refers to the information, beliefs, art, law, morals, practices, and habits that people acquire as members of society. Just as there are cultural traditions that are beneficial to health, such as nursing a child, certain practices are harmful and can be classified as cultural hazards. Practices such as the belief that evil spirits are the source of diseases, the practice of storing drinking water uncovered, open defecation, and not washing one’s hands before meals and after using the latrine are considered cultural hazards.
What are the Benefits of Studying Environmental Health?
The key benefits of studying environmental health are:
- It has a positive impact on society
- You become a public health advocate
- You can work anywhere in the world
- Enjoy the outdoors while working
- The salary packages for environmental health careers are attractive
Studying environmental health can prepare you for environmental health careers in job roles such as air pollution analyst, environmental health inspector, environmental health manager, health and safety engineer, etc.
What is the Role of Environmental Health?
Environmental health is critical to public health. Water pollution, harsh weather, and chemical exposures all have a significantly negative impact on health, from contributing to chronic diseases like cancer to acute ailments like heat exhaustion.
Therefore, clean air, a stable climate, safe and usable water, sanitation and hygiene, chemical safety, radiation protection, healthy and safe workplaces, sound agricultural practices, health-supportive cities and built environments, and a maintained natural environment are all essential for optimal health.
How to Become an Environmental Health Professional?
Environmental health professionals often require a Bachelor’s degree in the life sciences, such as biology, microbiology, or chemistry. A strong foundation in calculus, mathematics, and statistics is also required. The National Environmental Health Association offers a Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) certificate in this regard.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2021, the median income for environmental health practitioners was 76,530 USD per year. The top 10 per cent of this field made more than 129,070 USD, while the bottom 10 percent earned around 46,200 USD. Also, the need for environmental health specialists is expected to increase by around 5 per cent between 2021 and 2031. Concerns about harmful substances and their suspected links to sickness and environmental health will almost certainly promote job development.
Environmental Health Job Description
The job description for environmental health professionals can vary vastly on the job role and its associated duties. A few key elements that remain the same in the job description despite the varying job profiles are:
- Ensuring that all personnel and systems follow federal, state, ISO, and business health and safety legislation and standards.
- Assessing, developing, or improving working conditions to make them safe, healthy, and accident-free.
- Analyzing accident data to find the root cause and adopt preventive measures.
- Participating in the evaluation of new products, processes, and sites to evaluate suitable environmental safety practices.
Is Environmental Health a Good Career Option?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for environmental health practitioners was 76,530 USD in 2021. The top 10 per cent of this field earned more than 129,070 USD. Hence, job opportunities in environmental health careers are considered lucrative.
Between 2021 and 2031, the need for environmental professionals and scientists is predicted to rise by 5 per cent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is significantly greater than other physical science fields but it is around the same as other industries. The increase in job opportunities is attributable to various causes, including the rising public interest in the environment, and the fact that many workers in this sector will retire over a variety of causes, including the rising public interest in the environment. Hence, it can be considered a good career option.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Subject Do You Need to Study for Environmental Health?
Environmental health professionals require a Bachelor’s degree in life science, such as biology, microbiology, or chemistry.
2. How Many Years Does it Take to Study Environmental Health?
Environmental science degrees typically take three or four years at the Bachelor’s level and one or two years at the Master’s level.
3. Where Can You Work With a Degree in Environmental Health?
One can work in both, public and private sectors, after acquiring a degree in environmental health.
Environmental health promotes sustainability and sustainability promotes a green economy. In the years to come, taking care of the environment will prove pivotal and sustainability could be the new currency. Emeritus offers many online courses and certifications in sustainability, so you can help the world move towards a greener economy.
By Siddhesh Shinde
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