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Chapter 17
Environmental Hazards and Human Health
Major types of hazards faced by humans include cultural, physical, chemical, and biological hazards.
Toxicology is the scientific field that measures the degree of harm a hazardous agent can cause. Scientists
measure toxicity based on dosage, solubility, persistence, bioaccumulation, biomagnification, and chemical
Chemical hazards include agents that are flammable or explosive, damage or irritate lungs or skin, interrupt
oxygen uptake, and cause allergies. Chemical hazards are defined by their toxicity, the person’s acute and
chronic reactions to it, and its pervasiveness in the environment.
The types of disease threatening people in developing countries are primarily infectious diseases of childhood,
while those threatening people in developed countries tend to be chronic diseases of adults, such as heart
disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory conditions.
Risks can be estimated, managed, and reduced by identifying hazards, evaluating related risks (risk
assessment), ranking risks (comparative risk analysis), determining alternative solutions, making decisions
about reducing risks (risk management), and informing decision-makers about risk (risk communication).
Please answer the following questions in your APES notebook.
Distinguish among an infectious disease, a transmissible disease, and a nontransmissible disease, and give an
example of each. In terms of death rates, what are the world’s four most serious infectious diseases?
Distinguish between an epidemic and a pandemic of an infectious disease. Describe the causes and possible
solutions for the increasing genetic resistance to commonly used antibiotics.
Give three examples of problems being studied within the new field of ecological medicine. What are two ways
in which people have exposed themselves to such threats? List five major ways to reduce the global threat from
infectious diseases.
What is a toxic chemical? Discuss the threat from PCBs. Distinguish among mutagens, teratogens, and
carcinogens, and give an example of each. Describe the human immune, nervous, and endocrine systems and
give an example of a chemical that can threaten each of these systems. Describe the toxic effects of the various
forms of mercury and ways to reduce these threats. What are hormonally active agents, what risks do they pose,
and how can we reduce these risks?
How can we reduce the threats from the use of various technologies? What five factors can cause people to
misjudge risks? List four principles that can help us evaluate and reduce risk.
Should we ban the use of hormone mimics such as bisphenol A (Core Case Study) in products used by children
younger than age 7? Should we ban them for use in all products? Explain.
Workers in a number of industries are exposed to higher levels of various toxic substances than is the general
public. Should we reduce workplace levels allowed for such chemicals? What economic effects might this