Throughout our everyday lives, we constantly interact with the environment – where we live, work, play and travel. The environment incorporates our surroundings - be they physical, chemical or biological - together with other social and cultural factors, all of which have an impact, positive or negative, on our health and well being.
Environmental health deals with the aspects of human health and diseases, affected by the environment. It highlights that in order to protect human health, it is necessary to protect natural systems, as healthy ecosystems provide the conditions and processes that sustain human life.
According to The World Health Organisation (WHO), environ-mental health also refers to the theory and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing these factors in the environment that can potentially affect the health of present and future generations.
Malta’s small island characteristics, high population density, large amount of vehicles, lack of safe open recreational spaces, low natural resources – such as water, pose a number of environmental health challenges, which we must face.
The country’s principal environmental health challenges relate to respiratory diseases. In fact, air pollution is a major factor in environmental health arising from both man-made sources, such as road transport, energy generation plants and quarrying and natural sources such as desert sand.
Air pollution is also a cause of respiratory diseases such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Smoking as well as passive smoking also worsens the risk. Furthermore, certain pollutants in air such as benzene may also cause cancer.
Another environmental health challenge is noise, or at least, excessive amounts of it. Noise from our surrounding environment also has a negative impact on human health and wellbeing. It has been found to cause high blood pressure and in susceptible individuals, heart attacks.
Noise is also a result of lack of sleep, and in drastic situations, may cause hearing loss or permanent damage to the ear drum. As yet, there is no legislation for residential noise such as traffic, fireworks, church bells, loud neighbours, horns and entertainment, especially during the summer months.
Radiation can have a number of negative effects including sunburn, melonama, sun corneal damage, radiation sickness – such as a sun stroke, and cancers (somatic). Amongst others, food safety, waste incineration, water quality, water safety and climate change are also issues that contribute to the challenges that Malta has to face in relation to environmental health.
HOW CAN YOU HELP TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR ENVIRONMENT?
It is our duty to respect the environment as this has an impact on our health. Here are some ways in which you can contribute:• Smoke less
• Travel wisely and where possible walk
• Use public transport
• Car share where possible
• Save water
• Report any polluting vehicles to Transport Malta through the emission alert SMS number 5061 1899 and other sources to MEPA on their emergency number 2069 9595.