SEGH Articles

Book review: Health protection, Principles and practice

02 July 2017
Τhe interface between the environment and health is a fascinating research topic and has traditionally been the central focus of SEGH. In fact it is this field that brings together geoscientists and medical and public health researchers and practitioners to address health problems caused or exacerbated by environmental hazards and natural disasters.

Edited by Ghebrehewet S, Stewart AG, Baxter D, Shears P, Conrad D, Kliner M. Oxford University Press (2016). 480 pp.

Τhe interface between the environment and health is a fascinating research topic and has traditionally been the central focus of SEGH. In fact it is this field that brings together geoscientists and medical and public health researchers and practitioners to address health problems caused or exacerbated by environmental hazards and natural disasters. However, searching for the right tools for communication between earth scientists and public health professionals can be a difficult task. "Health Protection: Principles and practice" is an excellent resource serving this scope among others. The book is written by specialists in the field of Health Protection in the UK where a multidisciplinary approach is adopted involving local health protection teams acting on both infectious diseases and environmental hazards. As such, although about one half of its chapters concerns infectious diseases, the book takes an inclusive, all-hazards approach and covers extensively environmental hazard control and emergency response to natural disasters, i.e. topics in the realm of common interest and interaction between geoscientists and health professionals.

As a non-specialist in health issues, without a medical background, I found the information presented in the first Section of the book very useful in providing the necessary knowledge basis to follow the case studies and scenarios related to health protection situations presented in the following chapters. The interest for geoscientists builds up from Section 3, where fire and flooding emergency situations are examined, and Section 4 which covers air pollution, cancer and chronic disease - all being typical issues where integration of health studies and environmental investigations is necessary. Section 5 focuses on health protection tools and builds upon well established approaches of environmental geochemistry, e.g. the source-pathway- receptor concept. The parallel presentation of key steps in the investigation and management of incidents arising from communicable disease, emergency response and environmental situations enables the reader to familiarise with the overall approach to public health risk assessment in all three domains. I also found that presentation through real-life scenarios, bullet points and "further thinking" boxes enhance comprehension and contribute to an easy to follow and enjoyable reading experience, which is also supported by up-to-date references.

The final Section of the book gazes into the future and discusses health protection under conditions of environmental, population and technological changes that are being observed and predicted. This section provides plenty food for thought and leads the way for developing new research ideas. The last chapter examines the relationship between health protection and sustainability, a societal challenge addressed through its three pillars of environment, economic development and social equity. The highlight of the book is certainly the comprehensive and succinct health protection checklists presented under the inventive acronym "SIMCARDs". These one-page summaries form the Appendix section and provide practical, quick reference guides for in-practice use as well as an excellent concise knowledge resource for the non-expert on how to identify and manage situations. Nevertheless, as the acronym itself refers to the New Media Age, it might be a good idea to make them available on line through a computer based application, forming a digital companion of a second edition of the book.

In summary, as a geoscientist I would definitely recommend "Health protection, Principles and practice" to anyone working in the interface between the environment and health, whatever their affiliation, and whether academic or practitioner. Especially, coming from a country where interaction between health professionals and environmental geoscientists is still weak, this text has the potential for becoming a valuable guide in achieving a common code for communication and lead the way towards a more integrated approach to health protection.

by Ariadne Argyraki

Associate Professor of Geochemistry

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

 

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Microplastics in the benthic invertebrates from the coastal waters of Kochi, Southeastern Arabian Sea 2018-08-01

    Abstract

    This study examined microplastic particles present in the benthic invertebrates Sternaspis scutata, Magelona cinta (deposit feeders) and Tellina sp. (suspension feeder) from the surface sediments of off-Kochi, southwest coast of India. The microplastic particles and thread-like fibres detected in these organisms were identified to be polystyrene by using DXR Raman microscope. Examination of the microplastic particle in Sternaspis scutata by epifluorescent microscopy showed fragmentation marks on the surface suggesting that the microplastic particle was degraded/weathered in nature. The study provides preliminary evidence of the presence of microplastics in benthic fauna from the coastal waters of India. However, further studies are required to understand the sources, distribution, fate and toxicity of the different types of microplastics in benthic invertebrates in order to identify any potential threats to higher trophic level organisms.

  • Mercury bioaccumulation in arthropods from typical community habitats in a zinc-smelting area 2018-08-01

    Abstract

    This study assessed the enrichment of mercury in the food web from the different community habitats in a zinc-smelting area of China. We used a nitrogen stable isotope technique to analyze trophic level relationships among arthropods and found that the first trophic level consisted of plants in the different community habitats, the second trophic level consisted of herbivores such as locusts and grasshoppers (primary consumers), and the third trophic level included spiders and mantes (secondary consumers). Mercury enrichment in the primary consumers was not evident, but enrichment in arthropods of the third trophic level was significant. The average of enrichment coefficients in spiders and mantes was greater than 1. The δ15N values indicated that mercury concentrations accumulated from primary producers to top carnivorous arthropods increased. In this zinc-smelting area, the biological amplification of mercury in the food web is significant. It is reasonable to assume that humans, located at the top of the food chain, are exposed to biomagnified levels of mercury.

  • Hydrogeochemical processes identification and groundwater pollution causes analysis in the northern Ordos Cretaceous Basin, China 2018-08-01

    Abstract

    It is necessary to identify the hydrogeochemical processes and analyze the causes of groundwater pollution due to the lack of knowledge about the groundwater chemical characteristics and the endemic diseases caused by groundwater pollution in the northern Ordos Cretaceous Basin. In this paper, groundwater chemical facies were obtained using the piper trilinear diagram based on the analysis of 190 samples. The hydrogeochemical processes were identified using ionic ratio coefficient, such as leaching, evaporation and condensation. The causes and sources of groundwater pollution were analyzed by correspondence analysis, and the spatial distribution and enrichment reasons of fluoride ion were analyzed considering the endemic fluorosis emphatically. The results show that leaching, evaporation and condensation, mixing, and anthropogenic activities all had significant impact on hydrogeochemical processes in the study area. However, cation exchange and adsorption effects were strong in the S2 and S3 groundwater flow systems, but weak in S1. Groundwater is mainly polluted by Mn and CODMn in the study area. The landfill leachate, domestic sewage, and other organic pollutants, excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, and pyrite oxidation from long-term and large-scale exploitation of coal are the sources of groundwater pollution. The S1 has the highest degree of groundwater pollution, followed by S2 and S3. High concentration of fluoride ion is mainly distributed in the north and west of study area. Evaporation and condensation and groundwater chemistry component are the most important causes of fluoride ion enrichment. The results obtained in this study will be useful for understanding the groundwater quality for effective management and utilization of groundwater resources and assurance of drinking water safety.