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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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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.

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 Radon
Radon is a naturally caused radioactive gas that can infiltrate your home. Knowing where radon comes from and how it gets into your home can help protect you from its negative health effects.

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.

What Will Climate Change Mean for Lyme Disease?
The first case of Lyme disease to be reported in the United States was in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. The disease is caused by a bite of a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) leading to a bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi). With the impending changes to the climate, scientists expect to see the reported cases of Lyme disease to increase, as well as the disease to be able to occur in areas it previously had not. Arming yourself with knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the infection is paramount for those who spend time outdoors.

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 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.

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