Special Exposure Situations

Smog during sunrise in ShanghaiClick to enlarge
In large cities like in Shanghai smog occurs frequently.
Source: Oleksandr Dibrova / Fotolia.com

Exceptional exposure situations deserve special consideration. They occur when usual or expected environmental conditions are not met. Human health is particularly at risk in these often extreme stressful situations, therefore environmental hygiene and environmental medicine take up a position on such topics.

To assess environmental impacts and their health effects, scientists conduct studies which refer to a general population sample and often use an "average" burden as a basis. The German Environmental Specimen Bank  is a good example. It is run by the German Environment Agency and financed by the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Usually, the relationship between environment and health is in environmental medicine assessed in an individual approach. Special exposure situations such as regional emitters or immissions, accidents with pollutant release, extreme life-style factors like an unhealthy unbalanced diet or exposure relevant hobbies must be considered.

Regarding the general background exposure (e.g to pollutants in the air), we often have little or no choice to avoid them. However, in other exposure relevant situations we do have a choice.For example, we can decide whether to take part in a Holi-festival and expose ourselves to fine dust or not. Or we can decide whether we want to travel to regions of the world where extreme concentrations of particulate matter are common or not.

On the following pages you will find some examples of extreme exposures, their negative health effects and how to avoid or deal with them.