Our expert says:
Environmental health professionals are concerned with environmental factors that pose a risk to human health and safety. Occupational health, which deals with health in the work environment, is a closely allied profession, and the two disciplines often overlap.
People in the environmental health field generally work as environmental health officers, researchers or consultants. Environmental health officers are employed by local authorities and government departments (e.g.Health, Water Affairs, Labour), and sometimes also in the private sector. Their work is varied, and may include ensuring that health and safety standards for food and other consumer products are met, inspecting workplaces and other venues (schools, restaurants, public swimming pools), overseeing pollution cleanups, and conducting quality tests on drinking water supplies. They field and investigate complaints from the public about issues such as pollution, exposure to hazardous substances, insect and rodent pests, and sewerage problems. The work may involve educating communities and workers about health and safety issues. Some environmental health professionals specialize in a specific area, e.g. air or water pollution.
Environmental health researchers investigate problems in the field, and make recommendations for their control. They may be employed at academic institutions, consultancies or government departments. These specialists also often teach at tertiary institutions offering courses in the field.
As the global environmental crisis becomes more acute, workers in this field are increasingly having to deal with the effects of environmental degradation on a local scale. For an overview of the scope of environmental health, and the kind of topics researchers are studying, please see ‘What is environmental health?’ in the EnviroHealth section.
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