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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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Airborne Dust Particles
Airborne dust is particle, or Particulate Matter (PM), pollution, and is one of the most significant air pollutants in Pima County. PM is made up of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets (a fraction of the thickness of a human hair) that float in the air we breathe. Because they are so small, you cannot see individual particles, but you can sometimes see the haze that is formed when millions of particles blur the spread of sunlight.

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.

Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health
Over a few decades, humans have managed to dump tons upon tons of garbage into the ocean. Of the most devastating elements of this pollution is that plastics takes thousands of years to decay. As a result, fish and wildlife are becoming intoxicated. Consequently the toxins from the plastics have entered the food chain, threatening human health. In the most polluted places in the ocean, the mass of plastic exceeds the amount of plankton six times over. This is a large piece of evidence that leaves the problem of polluted oceans undeniable. It is upsetting that more of clean up effort is not taking place.

Arsenic in Bangladesh
There are an estimated 70 million people currently at risk for arsenic poisoning in the the Bangladesh area, resulting in a major health crisis and need for clean water. The effects of Arsenic poisoning are gruesome, and take effect after many years of drinking arsenic contaminated water.

Radiation and Cancer
This web page provides information about the different types of radiation, where they come from, how they can impact your health, and what you can do to lower your chances of radiation exposure.

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.


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