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close this bookBasic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1993, 151 p.)
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Health consequences of environmental degradation

Health consequences of environmental degradation


Beware! Nature is fighting back against the abuses we have inflicted upon it. Environmental crisis has set in our midst. The food we eat, the air we breathe end the wafer we drink contain in varying degrees harmful substances or pollutants. The generation of wastes has surpassed the capacity of the land, water and atmosphere to assimilate them.

There are four types of pollution, namely:

1. Air Pollution - undesirable changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of air. Smoke emissions of industrial plants, motor vehicles, methane gas from waste/refuse combustion make the air unclean.

2. Water Pollution - when water contains more harmful bacteria and poisonous chemicals that it can naturally get rid oft The dumping of domestic and industrial wastes in to water bodies, floods, mine fatlings can pollute our waterways.

2. Land/Soil Pollution - when harmful substances are introduced into the soil making it unable to sustain plant life. Use of excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides depletes nutrients. hardens the texture, increases toxicity, making the soil less productive.

4. Noise Pollution - too loud, so sudden, persistent and unpleasant sounds that become an assault to the body causing mental or physical harm. The roaring of motor vehicles, grating sound of jackhammer, squeaking tires, blaring TV sets, radios and stereos and even loud shouts are noise pollutants.

There are three major factors that affect environmental health which can be manifested by the correlation between and among human behavior, environmental degradation and human health impacts.

Rapid population growth, urbanization and industrialization

· These changes bring about environmental degradation due to:

· population pressure in the cities and its consequences such as insufficient human settlements, conversion of agricultural land at the fringes of cities into human setllement areas, pollution, overcrowding, poor solid waste disposal, poor sewerage system and water shortage;

· health problems in slum areas mount where basic health services cannot satisfactorily address; and,

· conversion of forests to agriculture and other uses which can increase soil erosion, cause landslides and aggravate floods.

Health consequence of environmental degradation

The common health problems/diseases brought about by pollution are:

Air respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, tonsillitis, common coughs and colds, TB, eye, nose and throat irritation, cancers

Water-borne - gastro-intestinal diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, infections, hepatitis, food poisoning and even death (i.e., mercury deposits in kidneys and brain)

Soil-borne - parasitism, malnutrition, skin diseases end cancers.


· The human health consequences do not affect everyone equally.
· Children are more affected by environmental degradation than adults.
· Similarly, the poor are at greater risk than the rich.
· Adult's negligence of the environment is stealing the right of the young to health.