Community Environmental Concerns

The Outreach Core strives to improve enviornmental health literacy across all audiences.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air. Car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mold spores may be suspended as particles. Ozone, a gas, is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it's also called smog.
Some air pollutants are poisonous. Inhaling them can increase the chance you'll have health problems. People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from air pollution. Air pollution isn't just outside - the air inside buildings can also be polluted and affect your health.

Arsenic Exposure

Arsenic is a natural element found in soil and minerals. Arsenic compounds are used to preserve wood, as pesticides, and in some industries. Arsenic can get into air, water, and the ground from wind-blown dust. It may also get into water from runoff.

You may be exposed to arsenic by

  • Taking in small amounts in food, water or air
  • Breathing sawdust or burning smoke from arsenic-treated wood
  • Living in an area with high levels of arsenic in rock
  • Working in a job where arsenic is made or used

Exposure to arsenic can cause many health problems. Being exposed to low levels for a long time can change the color of your skin. It can cause corns and small warts. Exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause death.

Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry

Basic Toxicology

Toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry, and medicine concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. It is the study of symptoms, mechanisms, treatments and detection of poisoning, especially the poisoning of people.

a Roman physician from the first century) is also considered "the father" of toxicology. He is credited with the classic toxicology maxim, "All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison." This is often condensed to: "The dose makes the poison".

Wikipedia

Household Chemical Hazards

You'd like to think your home is a safe place. Yet most people's homes are filled with potentially dangerous substances. These include oven and drain cleaners, laundry powder, floor polish, paint and pesticides. Even arts and crafts supplies and yard care products can be hazardous.

Many household products can harm children, pets and the environment if not used and stored correctly. Toxic substances in these products can cause harm if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. People respond to toxic substances in different ways. At high doses a toxic substance might cause birth defects or other serious problems, including brain damage or death.

To avoid problems, keep products in the containers they come in and use them exactly as the label says. Seek medical help if you swallow, inhale or get products on your skin.

Medline Plus

Dust Storms

Monsoon storms send huge walls of dust across parts of Arizona, sometimes snarling traffic on roadways and knocking out power. There could be hidden health impacts for millions of people living in the state's dust zone as well. William Sprigg, of the University of Arizona's Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said dust storms - or haboobs - carry a noxious mix of fungi, heavy metals from pollutants, chemicals and bacteria that could lead to cardiovascular and eye disease, and other illnesses.

YouTube: Arizona dust storm: Time-lapse of 2011 Phoenix 'haboob'

TCE Tricholoroethylene

Trichloroethylene is a colorless liquid which is used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts. Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a nonflammable, colorless liquid with a somewhat sweet odor and a sweet, burning taste. It is used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers.

Trichloroethylene is not thought to occur naturally in the environment. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture, use, and disposal of the chemical.

Drinking or breathing high levels of trichloroethylene may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Trichloroethylene has been found in at least 852 of the 1,430 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry

UV Exposure

The sun emits energy over a broad spectrum of wavelengths: visible light that you see, infrared radiation that you feel as heat, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation that you can’t see or feel. UV radiation has a shorter wavelength and higher energy than visible light. It affects human health both positively and negatively. Short exposure to UVB radiation generates vitamin D, but can also lead to sunburn depending on an individual’s skin type. Fortunately for life on Earth, our atmosphere’s stratospheric ozone layer shields us from most UV radiation. What does get through the ozone layer, however, can cause the following problems, particularly for people who spend unprotected time outdoors:

  • Skin cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Premature aging of the skin

Since the benefits of sunlight cannot be separated from its damaging effects, it is important to understand the risks of overexposure, and take simple precautions to protect yourself.

Environmental Protection Agency