Initial Publication Date: May 10, 2005

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

Exposure pathways

  • 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.

Analtyical techniques

  • 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.