What is Environmental Medicine? And why is it important to us? Consider the following examples:
- There has been an E. coli outbreak in your community, and the local health board is searching for a common link between the affected patients.
- You are replacing your windows in your older home, and the company installing your new windows takes precautions to prevent the possible spread of lead while working.
What does this have to do with environmental medicine? One focuses on identifying and treating the cause of an outbreak, while the other focuses on preventing environmental factors from making you and the others sick.
What is Environmental Medicine?
Britannica defines Environmental Medicine as “Medical science involving the study of the relationship between human health, biological, chemical and physical factors of the environment.” 
As links between environmental factors and our health became more recognized, the practice of environmental medicine started sometime in the 20th century. We began to understand how direct, or indirect, environmental factors could impact our health.  Indirect and direct factors typically bring on these illnesses. For example, an indirect factor would be climate change. A direct factor would be lead poisoning. 
Where are we now?
As scientific advances continue and we start to rule out genetic factors for illnesses, environmental medicine is gaining more attention as a cause for some diseases we now face. Over the years, environmental medicine has also grown to include preventative practices.
Our work can expose us to questionable environmental factors, such as construction sites containing pollutants in the air or water. Physicians and we must continue to educate ourselves in environmental medicine.
Cases involving environmental factors, illness, or injury can be prevented by following safety rules and educating yourself.  You can take a proactive approach by staying informed and following safety and health procedures to help mitigate your risks at work or home. The more we learn and understand, the more proactive we can be with our health.
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1. Rodriguez-Morales, Alfonso J. “Environmental Medicine.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/science/environmental-medicine.
2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Curriculum Development in Environmental Medicine; Pope AM, Rall DP, editors. Environmental Medicine: Integrating a Missing Element into Medical Education. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1995. 1, Introduction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231989/