Environmental health, as defined by EHINZ, refers to aspects of human health, including quality of life, that can be determined or affected by physical and non-physical factors in our world and in ourselves. Environmental health focuses on and examines the relationship and interaction between the environment and our health. We need safe, healthy, and supportive environments for good health.
Environmental health and environmental illnesses embrace all genetic and non-genetic factors that may have an impact on our health—physical, chemical, biological, social, and psychological—and the resulting health issues. It’s not just “the outdoors” and/or toxic exposures. It involves COVID-19, Long COVID, stress, hormones, aspects of modern lifestyles, noise pollution, infectious diseases, viruses, and more (see here, and here, and here).
Environmental illnesses are illnesses and diseases that occur or whose symptoms get worse when the person is exposed to something in the environment.
In an environmental illness, something that a person has been exposed to causes them to have mild to severe symptoms and reactions. The substances and environments to which a person may react, following an exposure, include but are not limited to:
- airborne pathogens such as viruses and bacteria that can spread when a person who may have a certain infection coughs, sneezes, or talks and sends their nasal and throat secretions into the air. Some viruses can hang in the air, land on other people, or land on surfaces. A person then could breathe in these airborne pathogenic organisms or could pick up germs if they touch surfaces the germs are on and then touch their own eyes, nose, or mouth (see here). COVID-19, pneumonia, the flu are all spread by airborne pathogens
- chemicals and substances such as pesticides, ingredients in medications, food dyes, food colorings, cleaners/detergents, hand sanitizers, plastics, many personal care products, and more that can bring about mild to severe systemic reactions as well as anaphylaxis
- biological substances such as from different kinds of mold
- public places such as buses, trains, and other public transportation, libraries, museums, schools, offices, hospitals, health centers, and more whose environments can contain chemicals and substances to which a person may react
- physical factors such as in skin cancer that a person can develop from too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation
- lifestyle factors such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, issues from substance abuse (for example, alcoholism)
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) includes in their publication, “Environmental Diseases from A to Z”: allergies; asthma; dermatitis; immune deficiency diseases; illnesses caused by chemicals and other agents, poisonous chemicals, dyes, metals; nervous system disorders; vision problems, and more (see here). Many of the illnesses and diseases listed have a basis in mast cell activation (see here).
Mast Cells & Environmental Illnesses
Mast cell diseases (MCD) such as mastocytosis, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and other mast cell activation-related issues and illnesses (for instance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), being sensitive to multiple chemicals and substances, ehlers-danlos syndrome (EDS), fibromyalgia, and more) come under the broad heading of environmental illnesses. This is because things in the environment that individuals may be exposed to bring on and/or worsen their symptoms and reactions.
Current research has shown that mast cells are involved in COVID-19 and Long COVID (also called Post COVID), in their mechanisms of action, and in their symptoms (see here, here, and here).