Common Environmental Diseases

By Anthony M. Wanjohi

Environmental diseases are those diseases caused due to the environmental factors and are not transmitted through genes or by any other infection (Donald, 1991). Exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, radiation, air pollution and water pollution exposure to toxins, pathogens, radiation, and chemicals found in almost all personal care products and household cleaners are possible causes of a large segment of environmental diseases (Titlow, 1999). These disease-causing agents are present every where around us and therefore, the possibility of a person getting infected depends on the hazards present in their environment as well as their genetic vulnerability to these diseases (Donald, 1991). This paper provides a brief description of the common environmental diseases.  These include  lung diseases, asthma, bronchitis, black lung disease, cancer and kidney diseases.

Lung Diseases

Lung diseases are one of the most common environmental Diseases (WHO, 2010). These include: Asthma, Bronchitis, Lung cancer, Black lung disease, Silicosis cancers and. Some of these diseases have been linked to environmental toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, cigarette smoke, asbestos, radiation, natural and man-made chemicals, alcohol, and ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and radioactive substances some of which are present in the environment.

 Asthma

According to National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (2007), Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways, which causes attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles surrounding the airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by (Wechsler, 2009). In sensitive people, asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in allergy-causing substances (called allergens or triggers) common asthma triggers include: Dust Chemicals in the air, food or Tobacco smoke (Fanta, 2009).

According to NAEPP (2007), some of the preventive measures against asthma are avoiding known triggers and substances that irritate the airways. Persons with asthma should also avoid air pollution, industrial dusts, and other irritating fumes as much as possible, beddings should also be covered with allergy-proof casings to reduce exposure to dust mites, houses should be kept clean and food in containers and out of bedrooms. This practices help reduce the possibility of cockroaches, which can trigger asthma attacks in some people also filtering material should be placed over the heating outlets to trap animal dander. In addition, tobacco smoke should be eliminated from home.

 Bronchitis

Bronchitis, an inflammation of the airways of the lungs, can be caused by breathing in certain chemicals or smoke (Hueston, 1997). According to Mosby (2004), smokers are at a increased risk for the development of chronic bronchitis thus most cases of chronic bronchitis are caused by smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. Chronic inhalation of irritating fumes or dust from occupational exposure or air pollution may also be causative agent. The most effective method of preventing chronic bronchitis and other forms of lung diseases is to avoid smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco (Goldsobel, 2010).

 Black lung disease

According to National Health Service (2010), Black lung disease is a common name for any lung disease developing from inhaling coal dust. This name comes from the fact that those with the disease have lungs that look black instead of pink. Medically, it is a type of pneumoconiosis. There are two forms: simple, which is known as coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP); and complicated, which is known as progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).Some of the preventive measures against Black lung disease are wearing a protective mask when working around coal, graphite, or man-made carbon  mines. The other measure is more companies should enforce the maximum permitted dust levels.

Cancer

Cancer occurs when a cell or group of cells begins to multiply more rapidly than normal. As the cancer cells spread, they affect nearby organs and tissues in the body. Eventually, the organs are not able to perform their normal functions (Benivia, 2008). Some of the causes of cancer are caused by substances in the environment: cigarette smoke, asbestos, radiation, natural and man-made chemicals, alcohol, and excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight (Wechsler, 2009). People can reduce their risk of getting cancer by limiting their exposure to these harmful agents.

Lung cancer is one typical example of cancer. It is a malignant tumor that invades and obstructs the lung’s air passages (WHO, 2010). Cigarette smoking greatly increases the likelihood of a person developing lung cancer.  Further more, exposure to asbestos increase the likely hood of one to contract lung cancer. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are cough, wheezing, unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood, and labored breathing. Other symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, hoarseness, and anemia (Wechsler, 2009). People who develop these symptoms do not necessarily have lung cancer, but should consult a physician for advice (National Health Service, 2010).

 Kidney Diseases

According to National Center for Environmental Health (2009), Kidney diseases range from simple infections to total kidney failure. Individual with kidney failure cannot remove wastes and poisons from their blood. Cause of kidney diseases include chemicals found in the environment, using large numbers of over-the-counter pain relievers for a long time also using of drugs such as heroin and crack. Further more, toxins such as pesticides can also result in kidney problems (National Health Service, 2010).

The list of environmental related diseases is long. The diseases that have been discussed in this paper, namely lung diseases, asthma, bronchitis, black lung disease, cancer and kidney diseases are just but the common ones. Effective implementation of the measures to counter the effect of these diseases on human health remains the biggest hurdle.

References

Benivia, G. (2008). Environmental Health & Safety. Retrieved on 25th July from http://www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/PDF/infect_poster.pdf

Donald, H. (1991).The Diseases of Occupations, Sixth Edition, , Hodder and    Stoughton,London. ISBN 0-340-22084-8, 1978. Aviat Space Environ Med. 62(8):795-7.

Goldsobel, A. (2010). “Cough in the pediatric population“. J. Pediatr. 156 (3): 352–358.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.12.004. PMID 20176183.

Hueston, W. (1997). Antibiotics: neither cost-effective nor ‘cough’ effective. The Journal of Family Practice 44 (3): 261–5. PMID 9071245.

Fanta, C. (2009). Asthma. N. Engl. J, Med.;360:1002-1014. [PubMed: 19264689] University of Washington School.

Mosby, E. (2004). “Chapter 33: Bronchitis, Bronchiectasis, and Cystic Fibrosis”

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (2007).Guidelines for the Diagnosis   and Management of Asthma. US Dept of Health and Human Services; NIH publication 08-4051.

National Health Service (NHS) (2010). Physical Health Fitness, National Institutes of Health, USA.

Titlow, B. (1999).  Health events. Coast Guard Office of Health Services, Washington, D.C.

Wechsler, M. (2009). Managing asthma in primary care: putting new guideline recommendations into context. Mayo Clin Proc., 84:707-717.: 19648388

WHO (2009) Disease in Europe.  Retrieved 22nd July 2011 from http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/countries/nl/national-and-regional-story-netherlands

WHO (2010) Environmental Burden of Disease in Europe.  Retrieved 22nd July 2011 from http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/countries/nl/national-and regional-story-netherlands.

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