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

  • Mechanistic understanding of crystal violet dye sorption by woody biochar: implications for wastewater treatment 2017-08-17

    Abstract

    Dye-based industries, particularly small and medium scale, discharge their effluents into waterways without treatment due to cost considerations. We investigated the use of biochars produced from the woody tree Gliricidia sepium at 300 °C (GBC300) and 500 °C (GBC500) in the laboratory and at 700 °C from a dendro bioenergy industry (GBC700), to evaluate their potential for sorption of crystal violet (CV) dye. Experiments were conducted to assess the effect of pH reaction time and CV loading on the adsorption process. The equilibrium adsorption capacity was higher with GBC700 (7.9 mg g−1) than GBC500 (4.9 mg g−1) and GBC300 (4.4 mg g−1), at pH 8. The CV sorption process was dependent on the pH, surface area and pore volume of biochar (GBC). Both Freundlich and Hill isotherm models fitted best to the equilibrium isotherm data suggesting cooperative interactions via physisorption and chemisorption mechanisms for CV sorption. The highest Hill sorption capacity of 125.5 mg g−1 was given by GBC700 at pH 8. Kinetic data followed the pseudo-second-order model, suggesting that the sorption process is more inclined toward the chemisorption mechanism. Pore diffusion, ππ electron donor–acceptor interaction and H-bonding were postulated to be involved in physisorption, whereas electrostatic interactions of protonated amine group of CV and negatively charged GBC surface led to a chemisorption type of adsorption. Overall, GBC produced as a by-product of the dendro industry could be a promising remedy for CV removal from an aqueous environment.

  • Concentrations, input prediction and probabilistic biological risk assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) along Gujarat coastline 2017-08-11

    Abstract

    A comprehensive investigation was conducted in order to assess the levels of PAHs, their input prediction and potential risks to bacterial abundance and human health along Gujarat coastline. A total of 40 sediment samples were collected at quarterly intervals within a year from two contaminated sites—Alang-Sosiya Shipbreaking Yard (ASSBRY) and Navlakhi Port (NAV), situated at Gulf of Khambhat and Gulf of Kutch, respectively. The concentration of ΣPAHs ranged from 408.00 to 54240.45 ng g−1 dw, indicating heavy pollution of PAHs at both the contaminated sites. Furthermore, isomeric ratios and principal component analysis have revealed that inputs of PAHs at both contaminated sites were mixed-pyrogenic and petrogenic. Pearson co-relation test and regression analysis have disclosed Nap, Acel and Phe as major predictors for bacterial abundance at both contaminated sites. Significantly, cancer risk assessment of the PAHs has been exercised based on incremental lifetime cancer risks. Overall, index of cancer risk of PAHs for ASSBRY and NAV ranged from 4.11 × 10−6–2.11 × 10−5 and 9.08 × 10−6–4.50 × 10−3 indicating higher cancer risk at NAV compared to ASSBRY. The present findings provide baseline information that may help in developing advanced bioremediation and bioleaching strategies to minimize biological risk.

  • Error propagation in spatial modeling of public health data: a simulation approach using pediatric blood lead level data for Syracuse, New York 2017-08-08

    Abstract

    Lead poisoning produces serious health problems, which are worse when a victim is younger. The US government and society have tried to prevent lead poisoning, especially since the 1970s; however, lead exposure remains prevalent. Lead poisoning analyses frequently use georeferenced blood lead level data. Like other types of data, these spatial data may contain uncertainties, such as location and attribute measurement errors, which can propagate to analysis results. For this paper, simulation experiments are employed to investigate how selected uncertainties impact regression analyses of blood lead level data in Syracuse, New York. In these simulations, location error and attribute measurement error, as well as a combination of these two errors, are embedded into the original data, and then these data are aggregated into census block group and census tract polygons. These aggregated data are analyzed with regression techniques, and comparisons are reported between the regression coefficients and their standard errors for the error added simulation results and the original results. To account for spatial autocorrelation, the eigenvector spatial filtering method and spatial autoregressive specifications are utilized with linear and generalized linear models. Our findings confirm that location error has more of an impact on the differences than does attribute measurement error, and show that the combined error leads to the greatest deviations. Location error simulation results show that smaller administrative units experience more of a location error impact, and, interestingly, coefficients and standard errors deviate more from their true values for a variable with a low level of spatial autocorrelation. These results imply that uncertainty, especially location error, has a considerable impact on the reliability of spatial analysis results for public health data, and that the level of spatial autocorrelation in a variable also has an impact on modeling results.