In his writing “On Airs, Waters, and Places,” Hippocrates noted the importance of considering every element of environment in its relation to human health (1). Environmental and integrative medicine are shaped by interconnectivity, if our environment is out of balance we are out of balance. This is increasingly important as more places around the globe declare states of climate emergency (2). Our intuitive understanding of this issue is supported by rigorous scientific studies that confirm the negative impact of a distressed ecosystem on human and animal health.
Toxins are naturally occurring poisonous substances derived from living organisms, such as mushrooms or snakes.
Toxicants are either synthetic or man-made harmful substances.
Hazardous air pollutants are primarily from man-made sources: mobile sources (cars, trucks, buses), stationary sources (factories, refineries, power plants, especially coal burning plants), or natural sources (ash from volcanic eruptions, smoke and particulate matter from forest fires) (3). Several HAPs are also found in indoor air. There are thousands of identified indoor pollutants including biologics (mould and animal allergens)and volatile organic compounds (invisible gasses emitted by paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and office machines). Illnesses associated with indoor air pollution include: pneumonia, stroke, ischemic heart disease, COPD, and lung cancer (4). Children are highly susceptible to the effects of air pollution because they favor oral breathing, have a higher metabolic rate, their lungs are still developing, and they tend to spend more time outdoors participating in physical activity (5)(6).
Water contaminants fall into several categories: microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides (7). Many pharmaceuticals and personal care products (prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs and by-products, drugs used in agribusiness to enhance the growth of animals, cosmetics, veterinary drugs, and fragrances) are bioaccumulative and persist as environmental and water pollutants. Research has identified some potential health effects following exposure to contaminated drinking water (8)(9)(10). Pharmaceuticals are not removed by water treatment facilities but may be removed by advanced processes (ozonation, advanced oxidation, activated carbon filtration, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis) (11).
What does a healthy environment look like? Clean, organized, private, optimal temperature, quality air, natural light, noise control, natural colour schemes, natural artwork, places for rest and contemplation.
1. The Internet Classics Archive | On Airs, Waters, and Places by Hippocrates. Available from: http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/airwatpl.html
2. OPINION: Time to declare a climate emergency? | Editorials | Opinion | The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/editorials/opinion-time-to-declare-a-climate-emergency-285627/
3. US EPA O. Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/haps/health-effects-notebook-hazardous-air-pollutants
4. Household air pollution and health. Available from: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/household-air-pollution-and-health
5. Pennington AF, Strickland MJ, Klein M, Zhai X, Bates JT, Drews-Botsch C, et al. Exposure to Mobile Source Air Pollution in Early-life and Childhood Asthma Incidence: The Kaiser Air Pollution and Pediatric Asthma Study. Epidemiology. 2018 Jan;29(1):22–30.
6. Khreis H, Kelly C, Tate J, Parslow R, Lucas K, Nieuwenhuijsen M. Exposure to traffic-related air pollution and risk of development of childhood asthma: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Int. 2017 Mar;100:1–31.
7. US EPA O. Drinking Water Contaminants – Standards and Regulations. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations
8. Olaniyan LWB, Mkwetshana N, Okoh AI. Triclosan in water, implications for human and environmental health. Springerplus. 2016 Dec 21;5(1):1639.
9. Padhye LP, Yao H, Kung’u FT, Huang C-H. Year-long evaluation on the occurrence and fate of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disrupting chemicals in an urban drinking water treatment plant. Water Res. 2014 Mar 15;51:266–76.
10. Rahman MF, Yanful EK, Jasim SY. Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the aquatic environment: implications for the drinking water industry and global environmental health. J Water Health. 2009 Jun;7(2):224–43.
11. WHO | Pharmaceuticals in drinking-water. 2013.
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13. US EPA O. Fact Sheet: Assessing Risks from Flame Retardants. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/fact-sheet-assessing-risks-flame-retardants
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25. Jackson E, Shoemaker R, Larian N, Cassis L. Adipose Tissue as a Site of Toxin Accumulation. Compr Physiol. 2017;7(4):1085–135.
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