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

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

  • Improving arsenopyrite oxidation rate laws: implications for arsenic mobilization during aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) 2018-04-25


    Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) and aquifer recharge (AR) provide technical solutions to address water supply deficits and growing future water demands. Unfortunately, the mobilization of naturally present arsenic due to ASR/AR operations has undermined its application on a larger scale. Predicting arsenic mobility in the subsurface during ASR/AR is further complicated by site-specific factors, including the arsenic mobilization mechanisms, groundwater flow conditions, and multi-phase geochemical interactions. In order to ensure safe and sustainable ASR/AR operation, a better understanding of these factors is needed. The current study thus aims to better characterize and model arsenic remobilization at ASR/AR sites by compiling and analyzing available kinetic data on arsenic mobilization from arsenopyrite under different aqueous conditions. More robust and widely applicable rate laws are developed for geochemical conditions relevant to ASR/AR. Sensitivity analysis of these new rate laws gives further insight into the controlling geochemical factors for arsenic mobilization. When improved rate laws are incorporated as the inputs for reactive transport modeling, arsenic mobilization in ASR/AR operations can be predicted with an improved accuracy. The outcomes will be used to guide groundwater monitoring and specify ASR/AR operational parameters, including water pretreatment requirements prior to injection.

  • Heavy metal exposure has adverse effects on the growth and development of preschool children 2018-04-25


    The purpose of this study was to investigate the associations between levels of lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), and manganese (Mn) in the PM2.5 and blood and physical growth, and development parameters including birth length and weight, height, weight, body mass index (BMI), head circumference, and chest circumference in preschool children from Guiyu (e-waste exposure area) and Haojiang (the reference area). A total of 470 preschool children from Guiyu and Haojiang located in southeast coast of China were recruited and required to undergo physical examination and blood tests during the study period. Birth length and weight were obtained by birth records and questionnaire. Pb and Cd in both PM2.5 and blood were significantly higher in Guiyu than Haojiang. Remarkably, the children of Guiyu had significantly lower birth weight and length, BMI, and chest circumference when compare to their peers from the reference area (all p value < 0.05). Spearman correlation analyses showed that blood Pb was negatively correlated with height (r = −0.130, p < 0.001), weight (r = −0.169, p < 0.001), BMI (r = −0.100, p < 0.05), head circumference (r = −0.095, p < 0.05), and chest circumference (r = −0.112, p < 0.05). After adjustment for the potential confounders in further linear regression analyses, blood Pb was negatively associated with height (β = −0.066, p < 0.05), weight (β = −0.119, p < 0.001), head circumference (β = −0.123, p < 0.01), and chest circumference (β = −0.104, p < 0.05), respectively. No significant association between blood Cd, Cr, or Mn was found with any of our developmental outcomes. Taken together, lead exposure limits or delays the growth and development of preschool children.

  • Contamination characteristics of trace metals in dust from different levels of roads of a heavily air-polluted city in north China 2018-04-24


    Concentrations of eight trace metals (TMs) in road dust (RD) (particles < 25 μm) from urban areas of Xinxiang, China, were determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The geometric mean concentrations of Zn, Mn, Pb, As, Cu, Cr, Ni and Cd were 489, 350, 114, 101, 60.0, 39.7, 31.6, and 5.1 mg kg−1, respectively. When compared with TM levels in background soil, the samples generally display elevated TM concentrations, except for Cr and Mn, and for Cd the enrichment value was 69.6. Spatial variations indicated TMs in RD from park path would have similar sources with main roads, collector streets and bypasses. Average daily exposure doses of the studied TMs were about three orders of magnitude higher for hand-to-mouth ingestion than dermal contact, and the exposure doses for children were 9.33 times higher than that for adults. The decreasing trend of calculated hazard indexes (HI) for the eight elements was As > Pb > Cr > Mn > Cd > Zn > Ni > Cu for both children and adults.