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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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Health Effects of Coal Combustion In China
Coal is a fossil fuel and when burned in factories it creates massive amounts of smoke that can be harmful to human health. This web page will explain and educate the effects of coal combustion in areas of China where it has become an issue.

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 Mercury
Mercury is a devastating neurotoxin that has signficant health consequences in the United States and across every other developed country. Where there is any type of industry there is usually a risk of higher mercury levels effecting every envirnoment. Learn more about how mercury gets into the environment, what the health impacts are, and how to protect yourself from mercury poisoning.

Silicon, Silicates and Silicosis
If you are exposed to dust in the atmosphere from natural or human-caused sources, you may be at risk for permanent health damage due to silicosis. To find out more about the risks, health impacts, and ways to protect yourself please read on.

Health Hazards from Mining in Butte, Montana
Butte, Montana was once know as "the richest hill on earth" for it's historical extensive mining industry. The area has now transformed into the nation's largest superfund site after much of the mining was shut down and the Berkeley Pit filled up with acidic groundwater with high concentrations of hazardous heavy metals.

Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana
Hydrofracking is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique developed in the late 1940s to gain access to fossil energy deposits previously inaccessible to drilling operations. The process, "hydraulic fracturing", literally involves the smashing of rock with millions of gallons of water–along with sand and a undisclosed assortment of chemicals in order to bring gas to the surface.


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