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Topic Pages

Topic Pages introduce an aspect of the environment and its relation to public health by featuring a curated shortlist of NCCEH and external resources. The most relevant resources related to a topic have been selected to best guide the search for further information. These lists are not intended to be exhaustive, and the omission of any individual resource does not preclude it from having value.

Cannabis Resources for Environmental Health Practitioners

Legalization of cannabis in 2018 will bring many challenges for Canadian public health professionals, ranging from the difficulties of establishing regulatory frameworks in a short period to the unknown consequences of widespread availability of this psychoactive substance. This topic page is intended to help environmental health practitioners understand the guiding principles and public health...

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Advancing Health Equity Through Environmental Public Health Practice

Health equity is achieved when everyone has a fair opportunity to meet their health potential. Health inequities result from systematic disparities in the social determinants of health (the external social, economic, environmental, or political factors that influence their life circumstances). Public health organizations in Canada recognize a role for all public health professionals to advance...

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Health Impact Assessments

A health impact assessment (HIA) is a combination of procedures, methods, and tools that allow for the strategic evaluation and assessment of the health or social impacts of a policy, plan, or project. HIAs provide information to decision-makers and stakeholders about the intended and unintended consequences arising from an activity, and make recommendations to maximize positive and mitigate...

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Food Environments

The foods that people choose to consume are influenced by the availability, affordability, and accessibility of foods in the environments in which they live, work, and play. Defined by the built and social environments, including physical, social, economic, cultural, and political factors, food environments play an important role in shaping diets and eating habits. A healthy food environment...

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Wildfire Smoke and Health

The frequency and intensity of Canadian wildfires is increasing as a consequence of the changing global climate, as well as long-standing forest management practices (Flannigan et al., 2013). Fires pose a direct threat to lives and properties in some communities, and also cause episodes of extreme smoke pollution that threaten the health of populations over large geographic areas. Wildfire smoke...

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Lead in School Drinking Water

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that is commonly present in our environment and can have serious, irreversible cognitive and behavioral impacts, particularly in children. Historically, most lead exposure has occurred through inhaling leaded-gasoline combustion products in the atmosphere; this contribution has drastically declined due to the global phase-out of leaded gasoline. Other sources of...

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Pools, hot tubs, and other treated recreational water venues

Public swimming pools, hot tubs, splash parks, wading pools, and other treated recreational water facilities are popular recreational water venues, which are regulated at the provincial or territorial level. In most provinces there is legislation specific to these facilities that provide criteria for their design, construction, and ongoing operation (www.canlii.org). Despite having these...

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Coastal waters, fresh water and other untreated recreational water venues

Recreational water venues such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, attract large numbers of users. Usage is higher in the summer months, although recreational water activities such as swimming, water skiing, surfing, wakeboarding etc., can take place year-round. These venues are not subject to specific legislation the way that man-made treated recreational water venues such as swimming pools and hot...

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Cyanobacteria in Freshwater

Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, are naturally occurring microscopic organisms found in fresh, brackish, or marine water that can form cyanotoxins. These toxins are a serious public health issue as exposure can cause illness and, in worst case scenarios, can be fatal (Svirčev et al. 2017). Under certain environmental conditions, cyanobacteria multiply quickly and create blooms...

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Radiofrequency Radiation

Radiofrequency (RF) radiation are electromagnetic waves emitted from a variety of common wireless communication devices, including cell phones, cordless (DECT) phones, Wi-Fi computer networks, smart meters, and baby monitors. The frequencies of RF waves range from 3 KHz (3,000 Hz) to 300 GHz (300 million hertz). Personal exposure to RF waves is highest when devices, such as cell phones, are held...

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Artificial Turf and Crumb Rubber

Modern artificial turf is used indoors and outdoors in a wide variety of settings, including multipurpose recreational and professional sports fields, playgrounds, residential areas, and public streetscapes (base of trees, sidewalks), and public parks. This product is thought to play an important role in urban environments by increasing play space, reducing injuries, allowing play under adverse...

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Floatation Tanks

Floatation or float tanks have resurged in popularity since their initial commercialization in the 1970s. These tanks, pods, or chambers are intended to help users achieve certain physical and mental benefits through the elimination (or minimization) of sensory inputs. Briefly, the user floats on his or her back in a warm, near-saturated solution of magnesium sulphate (MgSO4), which buoys the...

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Oil Spills and Health

The transportation of oil and gas products by land and sea create opportunities for unexpected mass exposures in communities that may or may not be prepared for such an event. Oil spills are also very complex events, in that they may have minimal or very serious human health and environmental impacts. The resources here are intended to assist public health practitioners in: Understanding the...

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Marine Shellfish Poisoning

Marine shellfish poisoning refers to illnesses in humans caused by consumption of marine bivalve shellfish (e.g., clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles) that contain biotoxins (e.g., domoic acid, okadaic acid, saxitoxin). Shellfish feed by filtering microscopic marine plants, called phytoplankton, from the water. Some species of phytoplankton naturally produce toxins. These toxins can cause...

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Carbon Monoxide in Long-Term Care Facilities

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless, and non-irritating gas that is harmful to humans. As a by-product of incomplete combustion, CO is produced by fuel-burning appliances including boilers, furnaces, fireplaces, kitchen stoves, and laundry dryers. Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust also contribute to indoor CO levels. At low levels of exposure, symptoms can include headache, nausea...

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Drinking Water Project

In Canada, most people have access to safe and secure drinking water. Nevertheless, lapses in management of drinking water safety may lead to waterborne illness outbreaks, which can lead to high personal and economic tolls as a large number of people may be exposed to disease agents simultaneously. Investigation of waterborne illness outbreaks is challenging due to rarity of occurrence,...

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Food Resources

Topics: Food

Public health is affected by the food choices people make, the quality and quantity of food available, and the ways food is produced. The modernization of food systems has resulted in complex environments in which food is produced, processed, distributed, and ultimately disposed. Land use planning and retail environments shape how and where people grow, buy, prepare, and eat food. Contaminated...

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Radon in the Home

Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is released from the degradation of uranium naturally present in rock and soil. Radon levels outdoors are generally low; however, radon can enter buildings and homes through cracks and openings in the foundation and levels can become much higher indoors, especially in basements and lower floors. Long term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung...

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Mould

Topics: Air, Indoor Air

Mould is a ubiquitous fungus in outdoor environments that inevitably makes its way indoors. The general population is commonly exposed to mould through inhalation, and less commonly through direct contact, with no adverse effects. However, individuals with asthma or other underlying respiratory ailments may show sensitivity to mould or its cellular components that may trigger respiratory tract...

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Bed Bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, elusive, and resilient insects that live by feeding on the blood of mammals, including humans. Bed bug infestations have become prominent worldwide, generating increased public concern. Despite the attention given to bed bugs by the public, researchers, governments, and pest management professionals, there are still considerable challenges with managing...

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