How pollution interacts with public health, environmental medicine and the environment has undergone dramatic change. Recent oil spills in the Yellowstone River, Alaska tundra and Enbridge (Wisconsin) demonstrate how pollution can directly and indirectly impact mans health environmental pollution was not a medical/public health issue nor was it discussed in clinical settings. Since the 1950s, environmental medicine has been discussed more frequently through a greater awareness in public health and preventive medicine; although today, there is now a focus on occupational medicine. Environmental and occupational medicine are however more commonly viewed as an integrated subject, with emphasis given to industrial issues. Certainly, pollution problems have been recognized in the distant past but were more easily mitigated by nature due to the limited complexity of the pollutant, its degradability (e.g. biodegradable organics) and lower industrialization. Health-related effects from environmental pollution have been well known, but were not fully realized until highly notable events like the Donora (Pennsylvania) smog occurrence in 1948 resulting in later public health programs including in their training a discussion of environmental medicine.
There has been an increased awareness of how pollution is observed regarding its health impact and attitudes toward public health and environmental medicine. Damage from oil spills will not only influence public health but overall disease rates for years to come. As environmental pollution increases so will the importance of environmental medicine in managing its consequences.
Last date updated on November, 2020