Components of geology and human health that may be incorporated into courses or curricular activities
compiled by Jean Bahr
Classes and characteristics of geogenic toxicants
- Examples include:
- Radionuclides, metals, other toxic elements, minerals and gases.
Mobilization/release and transport mechanisms
- Natural processes
Examples include volcanic emissions, mineral dissolution during weathering and water-rock interactions, radioactive decay, solute transport by groundwater in regional flow systems, surface water transport of solutes and particulates and atmospheric circulation
- Human activities
Mining and milling, groundwater development, drainage and irrigation, land use that leads to enhanced erosion and burning of fossil fuels
- Air Inhalation of gases or particulates
- Water Drinking water and skin contact
- Food Including geophagy
- Occupational Miners, metal workers
- Use (and improper disposal) of materials containing geogenic toxicants
Asbestos insulation, mercury thermometers, building stone with high concentrations of radionuclides
Controls on bioavailability
- Exposure and toxicity (or other health effects), speciation, solubility, size and shape of particulates, surface properties of biomolecules, dose-response relationships.
"Forensic" medical geology
- Combined geochemical and epidemiological studies to identify sources and mechanisms responsible for geogenic health hazards.
- Traditional analytical methods for determining concentrations in solids and water.
- Isotopic analyses.
- Microscopy and other methods for mineral characterization.
- Novel techniques that improve detection limits, can be applied rapidly and/or less expensively in the field, and allow characterization of surface properties of minerals at the nanoscale.
- Sampling and preservation issues.
- Impacts of improved detection limits and mineral characterization on identification and understanding of geogenic health hazards.