Environmental and Occupational Health

What is Environmental and Occupational Health?

Environmental health is a public health specialty field that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environments that affect individual and population health.  Occupational health, a subfield of environmental health, specifically deals with workplace health and safety and has a strong focus on the primary prevention of hazards that can cause injuries and disease.

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 Most environmental and occupational health practitioners work as inspectors and detectives who assess and ensure safe water, food, and air quality, and sanitary conditions, safe working conditions, assess solutions for preventing and controlling hazards, supervise toxic waste remediation, prevent and investigate disease outbreaks, including those caused by infectious and toxic agents, natural disasters and bioterrorism, and develop environmental policies for sustainable societies.

Environmental and occupational health are growing fields with excellent job prospects for graduates. Employment in this field is projected to grow 11% from 2014 to 2024 in the U.S. which is faster than the average for all occupations combined.

The increasing need for environmental and occupational health professionals comes from environmental and occupational health threats, including those associated with global warming and climate change such as:    

  • The effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
  • Deadly outbreaks caused by food contaminated with  E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria 
  • Diseases spread through unsafe drinking water
  • Cancer-causing chemicals, toxins, and other agents
  • Outbreaks of Ebola virus, bird flu,  influenza, TB and rabies    
  • Bioterrorism, natural disasters, and manmade catastrophes
  • West Nile virus, Zika, dengue  malaria, leishmaniasis, and other vector-borne diseases
  • Beneficial contributions of natural environments and green spaces to human health and well-being
  • Workplace risk factors leading to injuries and accidents, musculoskeletal diseases, cancers, cardiorespiratory diseases, hearing loss, stress-related conditions, and communicable diseases.