Environmental and Occupational Health and Illness


The environment and occupation are among the primary determinants of health as well as illness. The environmental factors that include biological, physical, behavioral, and chemical play a critical role in health and occurrence of diseases. Any threat to the environment has adverse effects on health. Similarly, the workplace influences health due to the many hazards that are inherent in many working environments. Work-related illness and injuries are not only widespread across Canada but also around the globe. Problems including but not limited to back pains, hearing loss, injuries, and lung diseases have a strong link to the different occupations, especially in the chemical, manufacturing, and heath care professions. Thus, the environment and occupations are primary determinants of health and disease. The paper examines the contributions of the environment and workplace to health and illness.

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Threats to the Environment

While appreciating that many interventions are in place to guarantee safety and protection, the environment faces a myriad of threats. Some of the primary threats to the environment include pollution, overpopulation, industrialization, increasing energy use, and intensification of agriculture. Pollution has been growing tremendously and posing a huge threat to the environment. Orchestrated by human activities and industrial processes, pollution is among the serious problems facing not only the environment and humanity. Air and water are the primary forms of pollution that affect the environment and consequently human health. Mainly, air pollution is due to industrial processes and other human activities that make the environment unsuitable for habitation. According to Clarke (2016), the combustion of petroleum products produces varying amounts of harmful particulate matter. These emissions lead to the increasing contents of the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide that subsequently contribute to global warming (Clarke, 2016). As Thomson (2017) indicates, Canada is among the nations grappling with the issue of global warming. Notably, the concentration of the gases mentioned above results in the depletion of the ozone layer, thereby exposing the populace to harmful radiations. Indeed, air pollution is a primary catalyst of global warming and climate change. Moreover, the contamination presents the population with health problems such as heart-related complications. Other illnesses that emanate from air pollution encompass asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema. According to Thomson (2017), many Canadians are grappling with asthmatic problems.

The improper disposal of effluents from the industries causes water pollution. Clarke (2016) indicates that the contaminated water becomes unsafe for drinking and exposes people to water-borne diseases. It is noteworthy that some of the byproducts of the industrial processes contain heavy metals. Such effluents affect the marine life, causing reproductive challenges as well as disrupting the aquatic environment structure. Praveen, Ganguly, Kumar, Kumari (2016) indicate that the contaminated water causes illnesses such as diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery, cholera, and Guinea worm disease. Pesticides have adverse effects in children as they have been associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Thomson, 2017).

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Apart from pollution, the increasing population is one of the silent pressing environmental factors. Overpopulation has resulted in the overstraining of the existing resources and living spaces. Indeed, the burgeoning human population has constrained the planet’s life-support systems. The population consuming resources such as land, water, food, and fossil fuels and restraining them are also busy generating large amounts of waste that subsequently contribute to environmental degradation (Praveen, Ganguly, Kumar, Kumari, 2016). The most impoverished populations tend to engage in unsustainable levels of resource consumption such as burning of rubbish for fuel. They also deplete the resources such as forests due to their efforts to intensify agricultural practices in the quest to feed their populated families. On the other end, those with financial wherewithal consume resources through driving automobiles that utilize vast quantities of fossil fuels. In this respect, the population growth has led to a shortage of decent housing that consequently leads to overcrowding. In essence, the inadequate shelter characterized by overcrowded housing is a risk factor for transmission of epidemics including but not limited to meningitis, cholera, acute respiratory diseases, and scabies. Indeed, the high population density and poor living conditions increase the frequency of disease outbreaks.

Although industrialization is critical to the economic growth, such growth is a threat to the environment. Activities such as consumption, processing, and manufacturing deplete natural resources and press undue stress to the environment through the accumulation of wastes. Most of the industrial processes involve the use of the fossil fuels that eventually generate the particulate matter, which harm the environment (Praveen, Ganguly, Kumar, Kumari, 2016). Additionally, noise and environmental degradation are other by-products of industrialization. The industrial pollution is mainly irreversible, increases the risks of ill health, and poses a threat to the human existence.

The world sustainability is under threat as many factors pose a challenge to the globe. The increasing emission of the greenhouse emissions and burgeoning world population threaten the environmental sustainability. As noted earlier, the accumulation of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a primary catalyst and contributor to global warming. The gases have resulted in the unexpected increase in temperatures and adverse climatic conditions including tornadoes, drought, and floods. These occurrences affect the ecosystems and cause imbalances that consequently make the environment unsustainable. As Praveen, Ganguly, Kumar, Kumari, (2016) asserts, the increasing human population causes unsustainable consumption and production of resources. Such practice endangers the planet as it puts a lot of stress on the world life-support systems. Unless the world adopts robust intervention strategies, the earth might become an unsafe place to live in the future.

Environmental Degradation and Health Effects

The environmental degradation is not only an issue affecting Canada but also other countries across the globe. While the health effects of environmental degradation are widespread, some regions of Canada and the world have higher adverse impacts than others do. Environmental degradation affects the health of the nation in varying degrees. In Canada, the highest incidences of pollution that result in environmental degradation and ill health occur in the areas with high rates of poverty (Thomson, 2017). The increased levels of pollution including the accumulation of greenhouse gases and smog have adverse health implications particularly on those people with coronary diseases and respiratory diseases. It is noteworthy the health effects of environmental degradation does affect not only those living in the regions mentioned above but also the habitats of the rural areas. Although the remote areas do not have heightened exposure to the pollutants that degrade the environment, human activities including the burning of fossil fuels generate gases that endanger the lives of people.

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The health effects of environmental degradation do not reflect an equal spread across the globe. In the same way it is in Canada, the world experiences the adverse health impacts of environmental degradation at varying degrees. The highly populated areas tend to consume natural resources in large amounts. As Nwagbara, Abia, Uyang, and Ejeje (2012 contend, the poverty-stricken areas tend to burn plastics or tires that contain significant quantities of hydrocarbon. They do so to generate energy that consequently feeds the large populations living in crowded areas. Since these people do not have the financial wherewithal to mitigate any outbreaks emanating from the environmental degradation, they suffer a lot before they receive any support. It is noteworthy that poverty and ecological degradation create an atmosphere that favors the rapid spread of diseases. Those populations living in overcrowded areas are at a high risk of developing illnesses due to unsuitable environmental. Those people with lower incomes grapple with diseases such as asthma, mental problems, and infectious respiratory illnesses. In this regard, income inequality is another factor that plays a critical role in determining the degree into which the adverse implications of environmental degradation affect the populace.

Occupations and Health

Workplaces can be dangerous if they expose people to hazards that result in ill health. While appreciating the fact that no profession is entirely safe, some jobs present lower risks than others do. For example, jobs in the learning institutions, fashion, advertising, and entertainment industry are much secure since they do not expose people directly to health hazards. However, professions in the field of nursing and manufacturing expose individuals to many risks. The people working in the manufacturing and chemical industries are at a higher risk of injuries and inhaling the toxic materials. According to Clarke (2016), the chemical and manufacturing firms have heavy machinery that can cause physical harm to the operators. The injuries can range from a small cut of fingers to severe mental damage. Those workers involved in lifting of heavyweights are at a higher risk of having injuries in the shoulders, neck, and knee due to repetitive motion and twisting. Indeed, pulling, pushing, tripping, lifting, scaffolding falls, and machine malfunctions tend to cause many occupation-related accidents and injuries. Thomson (2017) indicates that medical professionals are at a high risk of accidental exposure to the ionizing radiations, which increases the risk of developing diseases such as cancer. Retail workers also develop complications of the back.

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The industrial processes expose workers to chemical and biological agents that cause health problems. As Clarke (2016) indicates, the people working in chemical industries inhale dust, aerosols, sprays, fumes, and other toxic substances that find their way into the body organs. These hazardous materials enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, dermal absorption, and even via the eyes. Inhalation of dust and aerosols causes occupational lung illnesses such as pneumoconiosis and asthma. Some of the processes that generate a significant amount of harmful dust include extraction of minerals, refining of metallic products usually containing lead, and minerals. According to Thomson (2017), asbestos is one of the dangerous mineral fibers that cause adverse health conditions that result in disabilities and even death.

Unlike the workers working in the chemical and manufacturing firms, the people in the academia, advertising, and entertainment industry have lower exposure to the previously mentioned harmful agents. Notably, the college professors do not come into direct contact with materials such as lead, aerosols, or dust. Similarly, the music directors, actors, and advertising models have little or no contact with harmful substances associated with industrial processes. Therefore, they have safer occupations than those of people working in chemical and manufacturing industries do.

Shift work is dangerous for the health of people. Primarily, shift work is in industries that over services day and night such as health, police, food, and transportation. The rotating shifts exposure people to diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases (Thomson, 2017). Perhaps, the inability of the workers to sustain the regular sleep-wake cycle affects the quantity of sleep that subsequently weakens the insulin resistance, thereby causing diabetes. People working in shifts also have poor lifestyles including diets that expose them to the highlighted lifestyle diseases.  Additionally, the shift work makes the workers unable to have time for recreation. Such a failure can lead to the disruption of the families as it invited unwanted stress as well as depression as Thomson (2017) indicates.

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The environment and occupation are primary determinants of health and illness. Environmental pollution coupled with degradation endangers the populace as it poses health risks. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, asthma, coronary illness spread due to water and air pollution. The type of work that individuals perform also exposes them to the risk of disease. Those working in the chemical and manufacturing industries have a high likelihood of developing severe health conditions. Unlike some jobs such as teaching and advertising that pose little danger to the health of the individuals, occupations in manufacturing and chemical factories increase the chances of exposure of workers to toxic substances or even inhaling them. The consequences are ill health and even death.

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  1. Clarke, J. (2016). Health, illness, and medicine in Canada. Ontario: Oxford University Press.
  2. Nwagbara, E., Abia, R., Uyang, F., & Ejeje, J. (2012). Poverty, environmental degradation, and sustainable development: A discourse. Global Journal of Human Social Science, Sociology, Economics, & Political Science, 12(11), 1-9.
  3. Praveen, P., Ganguly, S., Kumar, K., & Kumari, K. (2016). Water pollution and its hazardous effects to human health: A review on safety measures for adoption. International Journal of Science, Environment, and Technology, 5(3), 1559-1563.
  4. Thomson, J. (2017). Lecture notes [Powerpoint slides]
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