History and Development of Environmental Health

Environmental health has myriad definitions according to the references it makes to people and their environment. These definitions trace their roots back to early times when ancient people realized the importance of keeping the environment clean. Cave dwellers are said to have experienced high levels of smoke in their dwelling areas and later developed air pollution related problems. On the other hand, olden times of the Bible also recorded instances of environmental health relevant concepts. These problems elucidated in the book of Leviticus persist in today’s environment described as mold. Still, ancient European cities recorded challenges related to environmental health particularly those that involved rodents. Today, modern cities continue to experience challenges involving vermin such as rats as well as other pests, whose management depends solely on modifications of the environment.

Modern aspects of environmental health took an unprecedented turn during the industrial awakenings that occurred during the industrialization age. Rapid growth of towns in the 17th and 18th centuries led to the development of sanitation issues. These environments fostered the development of diseases particularly because of their common unventilated houses, dirty and unpaved streets, deficient, or lack of water supplies, unemptied privy vaults, stagnated pools of water, non –functioning open sewers, and deadened machineries in industries. The supply of clean water for drinking became an increasing necessity by day and greater populations increased pollution of water sources. In turn, frequent cholera outbreaks as well as yellow fever marked the 18th and 19th centuries. In a similar vein, the need for sewage management and piped water became imminent and other environmental health services followed suit.

Modern era of environmental health started in the middle of the twentieth century with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as its best landmark. This landmark placed its focus on DDT, a pesticide that had featured predominantly in the Second World War. Carson identified the effects of this deadly chemical on the environment and purported that it caused harm to the ecosystem and animals’ fatty tissues. She also linked DDT to human cancers and congenital defects in babies. Several years later scientists started appreciating the impact of hazardous waste on the environment and human waste. Today, environmental health, as a field, has evolved so much marked with technological advancements. This field suffices as one of the important branches of public health and its value continues to rise as it helps in reducing treatment costs largely.


Published on  June 8th, 2016

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