Initial Publication Date: December 13, 2012

Geology and Human Health: Pick Your Poison

David Mogk, Dept. Earth Sciences, Montana State University

Geology and human health? That seems like an odd combination. What's the connection? Browse through this collection of case studies to see the many ways that natural and anthropogenic toxins and pathogens can impact human health.


This collection of case studies was developed by students in the ERTH 102 Geology and Human Health course in the Department of Earth Sciences, 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. The goals of this course were to

  • Review the many pathogens from geologic and anthropogenic sources that impact human health
  • Relate geologic materials, processes and phenomena to the personal and societal lives of the students
  • Use an Earth system approach to show connections between solid Earth, the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere
  • Demonstrate the complexity of human health issues and the need to integrate across many disciplines
  • Empower students to ask their own questions, identify reliable sources of information, and to find answers
  • Develop strategies to avoid, prevent, or mitigate health hazards, and
  • Develop skills to find, prioritize and utilize information; communication skills related to web-authoring; and critical thinking skills.

Students selected topics of interest to their personal lives. They searched the web for credible sources of information. They distilled this information and wrote the supporting text to develop these webpages. The following case studies are the results of their semester long projects.

Browse the Collection of Case Studies

Health Effects of Minerals and Heavy Metals

Airborne Health Hazards

Waterborne Health Hazards

Health Hazards Related to Ionizing Radiation

Health Hazards Related to Weather and Climate Change

Anthropogenic Health Hazards in the Environment