There are many reasons you should be concerned with the environment around you, beginning with the way it impacts your health. There’s a wealth of research showing that the state of the environment has direct and indirect effects on your well-being. Unfortunately, countries all over the world are experiencing environmental degradation, resulting in deaths from lower respiratory infections, heart disease, diarrhea, AIDS, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, malaria, and neonatal infections, according to the World Health Organization.
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Your Personal Environment and Your Health
Although the incidence of death is much lower in high-income countries, the clear connection between environmental factors and human health should be a concern for everyone. Naturally, your first area of concern may be your immediate environment, including the air quality, source of water, and access to food at home and at work. You can take immediate steps to make improvements where you live and work:
- Improve air quality by reducing the number of chemicals you use for cleaning, increasing the intake of fresh air, and decreasing the amount of dust, mold, and pet dander. Other tips include using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, putting a floor mat at each door, smoking outside, and avoiding all artificial fragrances.
- Most cities in the United States provide access to clean water, but aging pipes can mean there’s lead in your water. Even well water could be affected by contaminants that leach in from the soil. If you’re concerned about water purity, send a sample to a certified laboratory. While waiting for results, run cold water for five minutes before using it and only drink or cook with water from the cold tap. Finally, consider investing in a certified water filtration system.
- Do you know where your food comes from? Pesticides, hormones, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and even traffic pollution could affect the nutrients you receive from what you’re eating. For the best results, shop locally and purchase food that has been grown locally.
Other factors that could affect your personal environmental quality are the presence of electromagnetic fields, sound pollution, and visual pollution. EMFs are consistently created by televisions, computers, microwaves, and cell phones. Sound and visual pollution have a definite impact on your mood. Consider limiting your exposure to each of these elements.
Reach Out to Your Community
Once you’ve made improvements to your immediate environment, you may want to extend your reach to include your neighborhood and community.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has proposed several objectives to improve outdoor air quality, water quality, toxins and waste, indoor air quality, exposure to environmental chemicals, hygiene, and sanitation. If you don’t believe these positive interventions are in action in your community, consider taking any of the following steps to make changes:
- Organize a group or event to bring awareness to your neighborhood. As you get people involved, the local government is more likely to move to make improvements.
- Use the media to draw attention to the condition of your local environment. You can write an editorial for the newspaper or post some facts on your social media page.
- Schedule a chance to speak at city meetings. Make phone calls and write letters. Meet with politicians in person and take information with you. Maintain a respectful attitude and make sure your documents and facts are up-to-date and accurate.
Of course, while encouraging your neighbors to recycle, cut down on their use of plastics, and reduce their driving, you should be doing the same. You won’t have as much influence on change if you aren’t willing to take those steps yourself.
Recommend small changes to your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members. For example, present your loved ones with reusable shopping bags as gifts. Make it easy for those around you to embrace positive changes.
Does the Global Environment Affect You?
Finally, pay attention to the larger environmental picture. During California’s water crisis, several other states were also affected. The Colorado River basin was severely depleted, affecting Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming residents. Awareness of environmental concerns leads to changes.
In Southern California, the Cadiz Water Project is one of these changes. One aim of this project is to manage groundwater efficiently, so it can be stored and used during dry years. Rather than waiting for crises to take place, concerned, involved residents could encourage political leaders to be proactive.
Add Your Voice to Other Voices
Today’s lifestyles create a lot of toxic waste, lead to contamination from burning fossil fuels, and cause natural devastation from the overconsumption of natural resources. The United Nations suggests four principles that support a sustainable world:
- Limit what is taken from the earth, such as heavy metals.
- Limit the creation of toxic substances, such as plastics and chemicals.
- Protect natural spaces. For example, don’t pollute water supplies.
- Meet basic human needs through fair pay and safe working conditions.
As you talk to the people around you and when you vote, consider the state of the environment. Your voice alone may not make much noise, but as you spread awareness, the voices of your family, neighbors, and community will be heard.
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