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Geology and Human Health Case Studies Collection

These case studies were developed by students in the 2012 introductory-level Geology and Human Health course offered by the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University. This course is offered for non-geoscience majors and counts for our Core Curriculum credit in the Contemporary Issues in Science rubric.


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Agricultural Pesticides and Human Health
A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest (epa.gov). Pests can be defined as any organism that causes plant diseases. Agricultural pesticides are then those chemicals that are used by farmers to prevent the effectivity of the pests on the growth and productivity of agricultural crops.

Asbestos in the Home
This web page it designed to provide easy access to information about asbestos in order to spread awareness. Asbestos has become a major environmental health hazard. It has been used in many industrial and commercial products that can be found in the home and in the place of work. When asbestos is inhaled it causes sever damage to the lungs which can lead to major health problems including emphysema and, in cases of high exposure, lung cancer.

Volcanic Ash: More Than Just A Science Project
The term "volcano" has its origin from the name of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. However, volcanoes are a result of processes of the earth much older than Roman mythology. While volcanoes may be fun to construct for science class or watch on television, the real consequences of volcanic eruptions can be harmful and serious. Some of these consequences include fires, structure damage, and differences in climate. One of the most deadly effects of a volcano is the ash coming from the eruption, which carries poisonous gases that are harmful to humans, plants, and animals alike.

Health Effects of Radon
Radon is a naturally caused radioactive gas that can infiltrate your home. Knowing where radon comes from and how it gets into your home can help protect you from its negative health effects.

Health Impacts of Selenium Related to Phosphorous Mining
As is true with all substances, the dosage determines the difference between nutrient and poison. In order to understand the impacts of phosphorous mining, a basic understanding of what phosphorous is and why it is mined is first needed.

Health Effects from British Petroleum Oil Spill
The British Petroleum oil spill made history on April 20, 2010. An explosion on the drilling platform caused the oil rig to begin sinking and as the oil rig sunk, millions of gallons of oil began dissipating into the Gulf of Mexico with no way to try and stop it. As the oil continued to leak out into the open ocean, not only sea life became endangered, human health did as well. Once the ocean became polluted with oil, it was only a matter of time until the effects began weighing on human health.

Radiation and Nuclear Health Hazards
When we think of radiation we may immediately think of only dangerous and harmful things. In reality, the word radiation refers to any transfer of energy through space from a source. Some examples of radiation include sunlight, radio waves, x-rays, heat, alpha, beta, gamma ionizing radiation, and infrared, just to name a few. Not all of these types of radiation are harmful, in fact, in moderation, most radiation will not pose a health risk. Certain types of radiation, however, can be dangerous, even in small doses.

What Will Climate Change Mean for Lyme Disease?
The first case of Lyme disease to be reported in the United States was in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. The disease is caused by a bite of a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) leading to a bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi). With the impending changes to the climate, scientists expect to see the reported cases of Lyme disease to increase, as well as the disease to be able to occur in areas it previously had not. Arming yourself with knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the infection is paramount for those who spend time outdoors.

Arsenic: is it a "Real Killer"
Arsnenic is notoriously poisonous to the multicellular life. Many types of bacteria use Arsenic as respiratory metabolites. Arsenic in the ground water is a real problem to millions of people across the world and also more gold miners are being exposed and because of the mining arsenic is starting to go airborn and spreading and creating a real problem with 3rd world countries. Arsenic is a chemical element which occurs in many minerals, in conjunction to sulfer and metals, and in its pure form is crystalized. It is a natural element in its pure state As as a one compound isotope. Some of the risk to human health with arsenic is cancer to the lungs, stomach, and respiratory tract. Chronic exposure to aresenic can lead to dermatitis, mild pigmentation of the skin, vasospasticity, wart formation, decreased nerve conduction velocity, and lung cancer. Acute exposures can cause lung distress and death. To help prevent form arsenic poisoning wear gloves, masks and protective clothing when working with arsenic treated wood. If you live in high arsenic level areas filter your water and if you have well water get it tested.

"Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products"
Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been polluting our water and soil ever since prescription drugs and beauty products have been readily available to the public. While there is no end in sight for the demand of such items, research in this field is extremely important in order to discover how it is truly effecting the world's populations and how to mitigate the pollution levels.

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