Environmental sanitation is a set of actions geared towards improving the quality of the environment and reducing the amount of disease. By doing so, the hope is that living conditions will improve and health problems will decrease. The management of water, solid waste, and industrial waste, as well as the topic of pollution and noise control, all fall under the umbrella of environmental sanitation.
The water supply can directly impact pollution and the spread of disease. The most common sources of water include groundwater and surface water; the main sources of groundwater are usually wells and springs, while surface water comes from fresh water sources like lakes and rivers. Both require treatment before being consumed because various chemicals, particles, and biological contaminants, like bacteria, can enter the water.
Many developed countries have water treatment plants where drinking water is cleaned of dirt and particles, disinfected, and stored until needed. This water may be run through pipes directly to homes and business. Other methods of treating water include boiling it or treating it with chemicals to kill harmful bacteria.
In addition to other sources, water can become contaminated from household trash and human waste. If waste is not disposed of properly, it can mix with water in the ground or with surface water that might be collected for drinking and cooking. When people drink tainted water, it can spread disease or even cause new outbreaks.
The environmental conditions of a given area may be affected by waste management, the process used to dispose of garbage. How waste is disposed of varies based on living conditions and the accepted standard of living in a geographical area. While some communities provide wastewater treatment and trash collection, others do not, which reduces the ability to control the well-being of the environment and its people. When waste is not removed and treated properly, pollution may lead to the spread of disease; when proper disposal and treatment methods are followed, disease and pollution can usually be reduced.
Solid Waste Management
Every day, people throw away a large amount of garbage, which is usually referred to as solid waste. In many countries, some form of solid waste management system has been put in place. Some common ways to dispose of the garbage include incarceration, which is the burning of waste, or landfills, which are places to store waste. In the United States and Europe, both of these methods are commonly used to manage solid waste.
Industrial Waste Management
Environmental sanitation is not limited to the pollution of water and the improper disposal of household waste. When factories or businesses dispose of chemical and physical waste in ways that directly affect the environment, it is often referred to as industrial pollution. For example, while the actual dumping site may occur several miles away from a main source of water, drainage and rainfall can cause chemicals and physical waste to mix with the water supply and pollute it. Some countries have developed a system to properly dispose of industrial waste and help protect the environment; as with household waste, some of these systems incorporate incarceration and landfills into their management strategies.
Air Pollution and Noise Control
Another factor of a healthy environment is air pollution; many studies have shown the negative effects of air pollution on the environment. Air pollution can also affect a person's ability to breathe, which can potentially increase the number of lung and heart problems in the members of a community. Irritating and excessive noise in the environment can also cause anxiety attacks or lead to distractions, among other things, which can lead to accidents and other potentially hazardous situations.
Ways to Help
There are a number of ways to help keep the environment clean and help improve people's overall health status:
- Individuals should avoid wasting water. They can do this by taking shorter showers, not leaving the water running, and using only what water is needed.
- People should recycle as much as possible to reduce waste. Many major cities offer recycling for plastic, paper, and glass products.
- Individuals can walk, ride a bike, or carpool to reduce air pollution.
- Each person can educate others on ways to help improve the environment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are four areas that must be reviewed in order for environmental sanitation to be effective: planning, water supply, sanitation, and hygiene education. The WHO offers guidelines for these steps on their website to help implement environmental hygiene programs nationwide and improve overall health.