Environmental health is concerned with preventing disease, death, and disability by reducing exposure to adverse environmental conditions and promoting behavioral change. It focuses on the direct and indirect causes of diseases and injuries and taps resources inside and outside the healthcare system to help improve health outcomes. Environmental health risks can be grouped into two broad categories. Traditional hazards related to poverty and lack of development affect developing countries and poor people the most. Modern hazards caused by development that lacks environmental safeguards, such as urban (outdoor) air pollution and exposure to agro-industrial chemicals and waste, prevail in industrialized countries, where exposure to traditional hazards is low. Each year contaminated water and poor sanitation contribute to 5.4 billion cases of diarrhea worldwide and 1.6 million deaths, mostly among children under the age of five. Indoor air pollution—a much less publicized source of poor health—is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths annually and 2.7 percent of the global disease burden.
Emerging and reemerging diseases have been defined as infectious diseases of humans whose occurrence during the past two decades has substantially increased or threatens to increase in the near future relative to populations affected, geographic distribution, or magnitude of impacts. Antibiotic resistance is a global problem. New forms of antibiotic resistance can cross international boundaries and spread between continents. Environmental toxicology is the scientific study of the health effects associated with exposure to toxic chemicals and systems occurring in the natural, work, and living environments; the management of environmental toxins and toxicity; and the development of protections for humans, animals, and plants. Environmental contaminants are chemicals found in the environment in amounts higher than what would be there naturally. We can be exposed to these contaminants from various residential, commercial, and industrial sources.
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