There are environmental risks related to what we eat and what we throw away; for example, the risks to the food supply caused by pests and pesticides. Pests are unwanted plants (weeds) or animals (vectors). The most common types of vectors are insects (arthropods) and rodents. Overpopulation, poverty, and lack of sanitation provide opportunities for vector-borne diseases to spread. Global warming and resistance make control of disease-carrying vectors difficult.
Pesticides are one way to control pests, but there is much controversy surrounding their use. While the benefits of pesticides include increased food supply, lower food prices, decreased spread of vector-borne disease, and pesticides can adversely affect birds, fish, and mammals. They can be harmful to those who apply the pesticides and those who are exposed to them, especially children. Although pesticides play an important role in our society, there are many natural alternatives to pesticides that are safer to use and very efficient, especially in and around the home.
Sanitation is one important way you can reduce the incidence of pests in your home. Sanitation is also important when it comes to food safety. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases (n.d.). Thus, proper handling of food is vital. Other techniques used to decrease the risk of food-borne illnesses are pasteurization, inspection of meat and produce items, and food irradiation.
Most of the processed foods in stores contain genetically engineered crops. In genetic engineering, the DNA from one species is introduced to another—sometimes the same species, sometimes another. Although genetically engineered foods require fewer pesticides and herbicides, there are concerns about food allergies and safety for humans and wildlife. Foods with the highest toxicity indexes for pesticides include:
(Organic Trade Association, 2012).
The disposal of waste is a looming problem in the country. Landfills are slowly filling up, chemicals from the breakdown of wastes have entered the soil and the water, and few steps have been taken to change the throw-away mentality of our society.
The average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day (Duke Center for Sustainability and Commerce, 2014). Further, waste disposal is one of the biggest expenses in city budgets. Improper disposal causes problems with vermin and insects and it pollutes surface as well as groundwater. Individuals are often unaware of the special programs for disposing of hazardous materials, so these too end up in landfills. The management of waste is a public health problem that must be addressed seriously, and soon.
As we look at how to deal with the waste generated, we must also look at the health of our homes and workplaces. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (2013), most North Americans spend ninety percent of their time indoors. Indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks and can be 2–100 times higher than outdoor air pollution. Since the 1970s, buildings have been built airtight to conserve energy, which has led to an increase in health problem associated with indoor air pollution. Indoor air quality is a problem in both old and new construction, as well as in homes, business, and schools. Problems can be caused by mold and mildew, and the presence of certain construction materials such as toluene and vinyl chloride. Headaches, allergies, depression, and chronic respiratory problems are indicators of indoor pollution. Therefore, proper ventilation is essential to protect our health while we are indoors.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). CDC 2011 estimates: Findings. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html
Duke Center for Sustainability and Commerce. (2014). How much do we waste daily? Retrieved from http://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily
Hilgenkamp, K. (2006). Environmental health: Ecological perspectives. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Organic Trade Association. (2012). Nutritional considerations. Retrieved from http://www.theorganicpages.com/topo/organic/benefits/nutrition.html?fromOta=1&OtaImage=1&
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Questions about your community: Indoor air. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/indoorair.html
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:
Please review the resources and assessment instructions. No extra preparation is required for this assessment.
In a 2–3-page report, make a case for eating locally. Address the following in your report:
Your report should follow a logical structure and be evidence based. Use the APA Paper Template (linked in Resources: Food and the Environment) as a resource for citations and formatting.
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