Environmental health professionals study how people interact with their environment to understand how the environment may positively or negatively affect human health. The knowledge of the impacts of human exposure to chemical, physical, biological, or radiological agents is used to modify practices (human or natural) to mitigate disease or discomfort or to improve quality of life.
Below are a few of the types or professionals who study in environmental and radiological health sciences:
Toxicologists - scientists who study the effect of agents on the body in an effort to understand disease mechanisms. This is particularly important when we are trying to decide if using ALAR® on our apples or Nutrasweet® in our soft drinks is a good thing to do.
Occupational health nurses and physicians – find solutions for exposures that occur in the work place that can result in disease symptoms that mimic other conditions - for instance, exposure to welding fumes can cause a complex that resembles flu.
Epidemiologists - study and provide solutions for factors that may contribute to disease in individuals and populations. For instance, understanding that alcohol consumption and birth defects are closely related allows us to modify behavior to prevent birth defects.
Industrial hygienists - study toxicology, engineering, preventive medicine and epidemiology in an effort to perform measurements in the work place to identify issues to design solutions.
Air and water pollution specialists - study the anthropogenic (man-made) items that we introduce into the air and water and design solutions to control man’s negative impact on his environment such as alternatives to driving or farming improvements using fewer nitrates that enter well water.
Sanitarians - are trained environmental health specialists working in departments of public health and performing essential services such as inspection, training, and enforcement in restaurants; tracking and documentation of disease vectors like skunks (rabies) and mosquitoes (encephalitis) to recommend interventions when required.
Hazardous and solid waste specialists - scientists who study and find improved solutions for the production and disposal of everything from paper and food wastes to industrial chemicals and household cleaners. How can we continue to enjoy the benefits of convenience foods (packaging materials) and cell phones (organic chemicals used for the case on your phone)?
Health educators – obesity is one of the greatest threats to the U.S medical system and our way of life. Only through education can we help people change their behaviors--to eat less fat, exercise more, smoke less and drive fewer miles each day. Exploring new and better ways to convince people to make personal change is arguably the most essential of all environmental health undertakings.