Human Health and the Environment

Human Health and the Environment

      This paper analyzes the health risks people are exposed to in their everyday lives. The first question deals with an individual’s personal health risks, and the second one uses an example to illustrate the health risks faced by the employees of a particular organization. The last question deals with health risks associated with the consumption of bottled water.

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Question #1

A)    Three risks that I consider myself to be exposed to every day are;

·         Health risks related to Passive Smoking

      Passive smokers generally face the same risks as the actual smokers. These include risks of lung cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease. Other than these, secondary inhaling of tobacco smoke can cause problems such as eye irritations, nausea and respiratory irritations causing excessive coughing and other allergic reactions.

      The dangers of passive smoking can be gauged from the fact that children who live with parents who smoke are three times more likely to develop lung cancer in their adulthood. (BBC, 2005)

·         Health risks associated with dietary factors

      There are numerous health risks concerned with diet patterns of an individual. In particular, excessive consumption of junk food and soft drinks causes health risks such as diabetes, dental problems, obesity and heart diseases stemming from high cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

      There are numerous studies verifying that junk food is hazardous to health and development. For example, one study shows that preschool children who consume too much junk food are slower learners than those children who start eating junk food a little later. (Fox News, 2008)

      The intake of soft drinks is another serious health hazard. The intake of soft drinks in children leads to poor bone mineralization, which results in weaker bones. Soft drinks lower calcium levels, and increase phosphate levels in the bloodstream. This combination leads to the pulling out of calcium from bones. Thus, an intake of soft drinks results in bone deficiencies.

      My own personal concern is that I do not have a balanced diet. My consumption of junk food is too much, and consumption of healthy foods such as vegetables and fruit is too less.

·         Health risks associated with extreme exposure to Sun radiation

      Ultra Violate radiation from the Sun is known to cause skin diseases such as Melanoma and other forms of Skin Cancer. UV rays also cause harm to your eyes, thereby impairing a person’s vision. With the depletion of the Ozone layer caused by greenhouse gases, such hazards are becoming increasingly dangerous.

B)          When comparing my list to the data given in the Estimated Risks of Cancer Mortality, all three of the risks in my list are present in the table. Diet factors has the highest percentage as a relative cause for cancer mortality.

C)          Based on the above two answers, my risks of getting cancer later in life are high if they stem from diet factors, as the relative cause of cancer mortality is 35%. Research shows that the link between diet and cancer is still unsure of, but the “nutrient most associated with protection is betacarotene, a vitamin A precursor”. Foods that contain the most betacarotene include dark green and yellow orange vegetables, and yellow fruits. Vitamin C is another anti cancerous nutrient in foods. (Stadler, 1997)

      The other two risks in my list do not have a very high percentage as a relative cause for cancer. Radiation from the Sun has a percentage of 2, whereas secondary smoking is at 1%. Therefore, the highest risk comes from diet.

Question #2

A)      The first health hazard that I might expect is associated with the water pipes which are decades old. Water that runs through pipes which are very old might have a high lead content. (City News Staff, 2007). Lead has serious health implications, for example, it can cause fatigue, impaired concentration, hearing loss, nausea, dyspepsia, constipation, colic, and hypertension. (New York Department of Health, 2006)

      The second health hazard can be expected from the old ventilation systems. The existence of old ventilation systems means that the air which employees are breathing will have a high dust content. This explains why employees suffer from respiratory illnesses.

       The fact that there is a smoking lounge also contributes to health hazards. Smoking status is directly linked to cardiovascular diseases. (Paynter, N, P, 2009)

      Another health hazard related to smoking is passive smoking. The tobacco smoke will harm not only those who are smoking, but also to others around the smokers. Both primary and secondary inhaling of smoke explains why employees suffer from colds and other respiratory illnesses.

      The fact that the building was recently remodeled can also have implications of employee health. Remodeling releases dust particles into the air, causing respiratory and other illnesses. Also, old buildings usually have moisture problems, because of which mold collects in the walls. When these walls are broken down, the mold is released into the air, causing health problems to the people around. In particular, mold can lead to asthma and allergy attacks. (Ponessa)

      Employees might also be facing health problems resulting from computers and other electronics. Working excessively on computers results in back strains, neck strains and eye problems. All of this might explain why the employees of this organization suffer from frequent headaches.

      B)      In trying to convince my boss to fund investigations, I would first present the above health hazards. I would bring to his attention that various factors in the building, e.g. old water pipes, old ventilation systems, recent remodeling, tobacco smoke and excessive exposure to computers and other electronics pose serious health risks to the employees. Moreover, employees are already showing signs of illness, which means that they are already being affected. This indicates that inspection should take place before it is too late.

      It is in the boss’s vested interest to maintain a health workforce, because a healthier workforce obviously means a more productive work force. Increased illness will result in increased absenteeism. Other than that, even when employees are not absent from work, illness will result in lack of concentration, mental and physical stress, and an overall drop in performance. A drop in employee performance could lead to a drop in company profits.

      Other than the boss’s interest in profits, he also has a moral and ethical obligation to take care of his employees. He must ensure that his employees are not facing any serious health risks, because he is responsible for his workforce in the work place.

      If health risks are not taken into account, the company could earn a bad name. If employees feel they are not being taken care of, employee job satisfaction will fall, as will job commitment. Turnover will increase, as employees will want to shift to organizations which have a healthier work environment. Therefore, the boss should be motivated to carry out health inspections in order to retain a healthy and productive work force.

C)     I would ask the following questions from the employees;

1. Do you suffer from allergic reactions, e.g. excessive sneezing or coughing?

      The answer to this question will tell us whether employees are exposed to a lot of dust from poor ventilation.

2. Do you face any problems related to digestion, e.g. constipation?

           The answer to this question will tell us about lead consumption from lead contaminated water.

3. Do you face any serious respiratory problems?

      The answer to this question will let us know if employees are being affected by tobacco smoke.

4. Are you facing eye problems? Has your vision become impaired over the past few months?

5. Do you have any back problems?

      The last two questions are geared towards finding out if employee health is being affected from excessive use of computers.

Question #3

      Research shows that bottled water is not as safe as most people think. A four year study carried out by the NRDC showed that out of 103 brands of bottled water surveyed, one third contained contaminated water. (Lucas) Unsafe drinking water has bacteria and chemicals with may cause cancer.

      People are now increasingly becoming critical of bottled water. They are primarily becoming weary of marketing tactics of corporations which sell bottled water. Labels on these bottles claim that the water is from mountain springs, whereas most critics do not believe this to be true. Moreover, bottles water means more plastic waste, which is bad for the environment.

      Therefore, it does not make sense to some people to go for bottled water, which costs a lot more, but is not much better than tap water, and also causes more pollution.

      It makes sense to drink bottled water under the following circumstances;

·         The company manufacturing the bottled water is credible, and the claims of the labels are verifiable.

·         When you personally prefer the taste of bottled water more than tap water, enough to pay the higher price.

      If both these conditions are met, it makes sense for an individual to go for bottled water. If the company is not credible, then you never know if the water is coming from mountain springs, or from an industrial waste site. If the company is big, however, they have a public image to maintain, and therefore, it is unlikely that they would be manufacturing bottled water out of industrial waste sites. Therefore, if you trust the brand, it makes sense for you to consume bottled water.

      The most obvious reason for choosing bottled water over tap water is if you like the taste better. Some people, who believe that bottled water is not as much safer than tap as is suggested by its price, would still choose bottled water simply because they prefer its taste.

      Under the following circumstances, you should not choose bottled water over tap;

·         Consumption of bottled water has had negative effects on your health

·         If, after doing proper research, you find that bottled water is not much safer than tap water. In this case, the high price of bottled water is not justified.

·         You feel that consumption of bottled water increases environmental hazards

      You should choose not to consume bottled water if it is hazardous to your health. Evidence of this would come from two sources; the effect bottled water has had on your own health, and information you have gathered through research. If either one of these sources tells you that bottled water might have high chemical or bacterial contaminations, you should not consume it.

      Lastly, if you feel that your society could do without an increase in plastic waste, you should try to avoid bottled water. If research shows that tap water is just as good, then there is no need to put the environment in more danger than it already is.


BBC. (2005, January 28). Passive Smoking Dangers Exposed. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from


City News. (2007, May 22). Lead in Old Water Pipes May Be a Health Hazard in GTA. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from <>

Fox News. (2008, August 15). Study: Kids Who Eat Junk Food Are Slower Learners. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from


Lucas, G. Top Drinking Water News. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from


New York Health Department, (2006, August). Lead Exposure in Adults – A Guide for Health Care Providers. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from


Organic Consumers Association. (2005, February 16). The Health Hazards of Drinking Coca-Cola and other Soft Drinks. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from


Paynter, N, P. (2009). Cardiovascular Disease Risk Prediction With and Without Knowledge of Genetic Variation at Chromosome 9p21.3. Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 150, p65-W11.

      Retrieved February 2, 2009, from Database Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition.

Ponessa, J, T. Healthy Indoor Air for American Homes. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from <>

Stadler, K, M. (1997). The Diet and Cancer Connection. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from <>

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