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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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.

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.

Lead in Drinking Water
Lead is rarely found in source water but can enter drinking water via corrosion in pipes. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. However, even newer homes are still at risk. Legally "lead free" pipes may contain up to 8 percent lead. More information on lead's health effects, sources, transport, and prevention tactics are contained within this page.

Chromium and its negative effects on the environment
Chromium comes in a plethora of forms and shapes in nature; it is a naturally occurring element (Atomic Mass #24), and can be both helpful and harmful to human health and the environment.

Health Effects of Pesticides in The Great Lakes
The use of pesticides was not as common 10,000 years ago as it is today. Around 1945 "pesticides became common in most areas of the world" (W.R. Carlile). Pesticides are used to prevent unwanted pest (living organisms that occur where they are NOT wanted or cause damage to crops, or humans, or animals). Pesticides are hazardous chemicals that help destroy pest but are putting are environment at risk.

Smoke and Ash Inhalation Related to Wildfires
The number one cause of death when it comes to fires is smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation damages the body by asphyxiation (lack of oxygen), chemical irritation, or a combination of the two. Smoke itself can be harmless to you but it takes up the space needed for oxygen, similar to carbon dioxide. Smoke inhalation is especially dangerous because people may not show symptoms until 24 to 48 hours after the event. An estimated 50-80% of fire deaths are from inhalation, not burns.

Asbestos at Thetford Mines, Quebec Canada
After being the focal point for the economies of nations such as Canada for a century, the asbestos industry looks to be all but dead. The health hazards that this silky-white product presents are now seen to outweigh the benefits of its fire, rust, and rot resistance, tensile strength, and sound absorption.

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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