The Environment and Health

H ow pure is the soil in which our food grows? How clean is the air we breathe or the water we drink? How healthy are the animals that provide substantial portions of our diets?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors, among other things, the level of pollutants in drinking water, the disposal of toxic wastes, the threat of radiation from nuclear power plants and the seepage of poisonous chemicals.

Harmful ingredients in the environment may be the result of pollution, accidental or intentional. Some enter the environment as a result of deliberate planning. Asbestos, for example, a mineral fiber that will not burn, was used widely to insulate and fireproof buildings. The EPA banned the use of asbestos in construction in the 1970s, after researchers proved the fiber caused diseases and several forms of cancer.

Major health hazards fall in four categories: Air, water and noise pollution and food contamination. Other hazards include toxic wastes, nuclear radiation, and work-place dangers.

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