SEGH Articles

Health Protection: Principles and practice

14 October 2016
Do you struggle with understanding how to respond to the human health implications of environmental contamination? Dr Alex Stewart, a medical board member of SEGH, is an editor and contributing author of a new text covering the public health response.
Do you struggle with understanding how to respond to the human health implications of environmental contamination? Dr Alex Stewart, a medical board member of SEGH, is an editor and contributing author of a new text covering the public health response (known as health protection) to such situations, as well as to emergencies and incidents of infectious diseases.
  • The text comprehensively covers health protection with relevance to practitioners working in every area of the field, whether in public health or environmental sciences or other professions.
  • There are detailed descriptions with practical examples of how to respond to rapidly changing emergencies and complex and chronic environmental hazards and situations.
  • Guidance is provided on the practice of health protection through case studies and scenarios; each one is a realistic insight into health protection situations.
  • Uniquely, the book includes quick reference checklists (SIMCARDs) which provide a hands-on way of dealing with and providing public health advice on different health protection situations (acute & chronic), through concise, practically-focussed crib sheets of essential information and tasks covering a broad range of health protection topics: ideal for use in the field or even exam revision.
  • The textbook is relevant for non-specialists such as environmental scientists, as well as public health and health protection specialists. For non-specialists, and those without a medical background, the first four chapters give the grounding necessary to use the remainder of the book in a practical way.
Health Protection: Principles and practice is the first textbook in health protection to address all three domains within the field — environmental public health; emergency preparedness, resilience and response (EPRR); and communicable disease control — in a comprehensive and integrated manner. Written by leading practitioners in the field, the book is rooted in a practice-led, all-hazards approach, which allows for easy real-world application of the topics discussed.
The chapters are arranged in six sections:
1 In-depth introduction to the principles of health protection
Case studies and scenarios to describe common and important issues in the practice of health protection:
2 Infectious disease
3 Emergency preparedness, resilience and response
4 Environmental public health
5 Health protection tools (epidemiology, statistics, infection control, immunisation, disease surveillance, audit and service improvement)
6 Evidence about new and emerging issues, including environmental issues and disasters.
The book includes more than 100 checklists (SIMCARDs), covering the three domains of health protection. Written from first-hand experience of managing such issues, these provide practical, stand-alone quick reference guides for use in many, if not most, situations, likely or unlikely, that can and will be faced in this continually evolving field.
Both the topical content of Health Protection: Principles and practice, and the clearly described health protection principles the book provides, make it a highly relevant resource for professionals within and without public health and health protection.
Health Protection: Principles and practice. Edited by Samuel Ghebrehewet, Alex G. Stewart, David Baxter, Paul Shears, David Conrad, Merav Kliner. Oxford: OUP, 2016. Pp480
ISBN-10: 0198745478  ISBN-13: 978-0198745471
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Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

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    This study investigated the effects and fate of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (CIP) at environmentally relevant levels (50–500 µg/L) in activated sludge (AS) microbial communities under aerobic conditions. Exposure to 500 µg/L of CIP decreased species diversity by about 20% and significantly altered the phylogenetic structure of AS communities compared to those of control communities (no CIP exposure), while there were no significant changes upon exposure to 50 µg/L of CIP. Analysis of community composition revealed that exposure to 500 µg/L of CIP significantly reduced the relative abundance of Rhodobacteraceae and Nakamurellaceae by more than tenfold. These species frequently occur in AS communities across many full-scale wastewater treatment plants and are involved in key ecosystem functions (i.e., organic matter and nitrogen removal). Our analyses showed that 50–500 µg/L CIP was poorly removed in AS (about 20% removal), implying that the majority of CIP from AS processes may be released with either their effluents or waste sludge. We therefore strongly recommend further research on CIP residuals and/or post-treatment processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion) for waste streams that may cause ecological risks in receiving water bodies.

  • Source and background threshold values of potentially toxic elements in soils by multivariate statistics and GIS-based mapping: a high density sampling survey in the Parauapebas basin, Brazilian Amazon 2019-08-10


    A high-density regional-scale soil geochemical survey comprising 727 samples (one sample per each 5 × 5 km grid) was carried out in the Parauapebas sub-basin of the Brazilian Amazonia, under the Itacaiúnas Basin Geochemical Mapping and Background Project. Samples were taken from two depths at each site: surface soil, 0–20 cm and deep soil, 30–50 cm. The ground and sieved (< 75 µm) fraction was digested using aqua regia and analyzed for 51 elements by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS). All data were used here, but the principal focus was on the potential toxic elements (PTEs) and Fe and Mn to evaluate the spatial distribution patterns and to establish their geochemical background concentrations in soils. Geochemical maps as well as principal component analysis (PCA) show that the distribution patterns of the elements are very similar between surface and deep soils. The PCA, applied on clr-transformed data, identified four major associations: Fe–Ti–V–Sc–Cu–Cr–Ni (Gp-1); Zr–Hf–U–Nb–Th–Al–P–Mo–Ga (Gp-2); K–Na–Ca–Mg–Ba–Rb–Sr (Gp-3); and La–Ce–Co–Mn–Y–Zn–Cd (Gp-4). Moreover, the distribution patterns of elements varied significantly among the three major geological domains. The whole data indicate a strong imprint of local geological setting in the geochemical associations and point to a dominant geogenic origin for the analyzed elements. Copper and Fe in Gp-1 were enriched in the Carajás basin and are associated with metavolcanic rocks and banded-iron formations, respectively. However, the spatial distribution of Cu is also highly influenced by two hydrothermal mineralized copper belts. Ni–Cr in Gp-1 are highly correlated and spatially associated with mafic and ultramafic units. The Gp-2 is partially composed of high field strength elements (Zr, Hf, Nb, U, Th) that could be linked to occurrences of A-type Neoarchean granites. The Gp-3 elements are mobile elements which are commonly found in feldspars and other rock-forming minerals being liberated by chemical weathering. The background threshold values (BTV) were estimated separately for surface and deep soils using different methods. The ‘75th percentile’, which commonly used for the estimation of the quality reference values (QRVs) following the Brazilian regulation, gave more restrictive or conservative (low) BTVs, while the ‘MMAD’ was more realistic to define high BTVs that can better represent the so-called mineralized/normal background. Compared with CONAMA Resolution (No. 420/2009), the conservative BTVs of most of the toxic elements were below the prevention limits (PV), except Cu, but when the high BTVs are considered, Cu, Co, Cr and Ni exceeded the PV limits. The degree of contamination (Cdeg), based on the conservative BTVs, indicates low contamination, except in the Carajás basin, which shows many anomalies and had high contamination mainly from Cu, Cr and Ni, but this is similar between surface and deep soils indicating that the observed high anomalies are strictly related to geogenic control. This is supported when the Cdeg is calculated using the high BTVs, which indicates low contamination. This suggests that the use of only conservative BTVs for the entire region might overestimate the significance of anthropogenic contamination; thus, we suggest the use of high BTVs for effective assessment of soil contamination in this region. The methodology and results of this study may help developing strategies for geochemical mapping in other Carajás soils or in other Amazonian soils with similar characteristics.

  • Uptake of Cd, Pb, and Ni by Origanum syriacum produced in Lebanon 2019-08-06


    Trace metals are found naturally in soil. However, the increase in industrial and agricultural polluting activities has increased trace metal contamination and raised high concerns in the public health sector. The study was conducted on Origanum syriacum, one of the most consumed herbs in the Middle East, and was divided into three parts. (1) Pot experiment: to study the effect of Cd, Pb, or Ni levels in soil on their uptake by O. syriacum. (2) Field samples: collected from major agricultural regions in Lebanon to analyze Cd, Pb, and Ni concentrations in soil and leaves. (3) Sale outlets samples: to measure the levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in O. syriacum tissues in the market. Results showed that there was a positive correlation between levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in soil and those in O. syriacum tissues. None of the field samples contained Pb or Ni that exceeded the maximum allowable limits (MAL). Three samples collected from heavily poultry-manured soil contained Cd higher than the MAL. Samples collected from sale outlets did not exceed the MAL for Ni but two exceeded the MAL for Cd and one for Pb. Trace metal contamination is not a major concern in O. syriacum produced in Lebanon. Only one mixture sample from a sale outlet was higher in Pb than the MAL and three samples from heavily manured fields exceeded the MAL for Cd.