Environmental medicine

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Not to be confused with Clinical ecology (sometimes also called "environmental medicine").

Environmental medicine is a multidisciplinary field involving medicine, environmental science, chemistry and others, overlapping with environmental pathology. It may be viewed as the medical branch of the broader field of environmental health. The scope of this field involves studying the interactions between environment and human health, and the role of the environment in causing or mediating disease. As a specialist field of study it is looked upon with mixed feelings by physicians and politicians alike, for the basic assumption is that health is more widely and dramatically affected by environmental toxins than previously recognised.

Environmental factors in the causation of environmental diseases can be classified into:

  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Biological
  • Social
  • Any combination of the above

Current focuses of environmental medicine[edit]

While environmental medicine is a broad field, some of the currently prominent issues include:

According to recent estimates about 5 to 10% of disease adjusted life years (DALY) lost are due to environmental causes. By far the most important factor is fine particulate matter pollution in urban air.[1]

Beyond the scope of environmental medicine[edit]

The fields of microbiology, which studies viruses, bacteria and fungi are not within the scope of environmental medicine, if the spread of infection is directly from human to human. However, infections that are water-borne (e.g. cholera and gastroenteritis caused by norovirus or campylobacteria), or food-borne, are typical concerns of environmental medicine. Its role is preventive as far as possible. Much of epidemiology, which studies patterns of disease and injury, is not within the scope of environmental medicine, but e.g. air pollution epidemiology is a highly active branch of environmental health and environmental medicine. In addition, any disease with a large genetic component usually falls outside the scope of environmental medicine, although in diseases like asthma or allergies both environmental and genetic approaches are needed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ EEA. National and regional story (Netherlands) - Environmental burden of disease in Europe: the EBoDE project. http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/countries/nl/national-and-regional-story-netherlands-1

External links[edit]