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 Microbes
In order to educate you about airborne microbes in different environments, I will let you know a little bit about when, where and how you can find these little, microscopic buggers and what kind of affect they'll have on you or your family. Everyone has their own natural microorganisms that live on, in and around their own bodies. These bacteria are known as natural flora and our own bodies (specifically the immune system) recognize that they are good for us. We, as humans, would not survive without such creatures. However, this website gives information regarding pathogenic microorganisms in general. That is, things that you can't see causing physical harm.

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.

The Health Effects of Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina was one of the strongest storms to hit the United States coast within the last 100 years. It devastated New Orleans and caused many health concerns for the public. The water left from the storm left little clean water to use, buildings completely destroyed, and the public at a loss for words. Nothing can truly stop these types of storms, all one can do is know what to look out for and how to protect themselves as best as they can.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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