Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Prioritizing Environmental Issues around the World: Opinions from an International Central and Eastern European Environmental Health Conference

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Prioritizing Environmental Issues around the World: Opinions from an International Central and Eastern European Environmental Health Conference

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: As the next generation of scientists enters the field of environmental health, it is imperative that they view their contributions in the context of global environmental stewardship. In this commentary, a group of international graduate students facilitated by three experienced environmental health scientists present their views on what they consider to be the global environmental health concerns of today. This group convened initially in October 2004 at an international health conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

OBJECTIVES: In this report we identify perceived environmental health concerns that exist around the world, with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe. Additionally, we address these perceived problems and offers some potential solutions.

DISCUSSION: At the meeting, students were invited to participate in two panel discussions. One group of young international scientists identified several significant global environmental health concerns, including air pollution, occupational hazards, and risk factors that may exacerbate current environmental health issues. The second panel determined that communication, education, and regulation were the mechanisms for addressing current environmental challenges.

CONCLUSIONS: In this commentary we expand on the views presented at the meeting and represent the concerns of young investigators from nine different countries. We provide ideas about and support the exchange of information between developed and developing countries on how to handle the environmental health challenges that face the world today.

KEY WORDS: Eastern Europe, environmental health, environmental pollutants, international health concerns. Environ Health Perspect 114:1813-1817 (2006). doi:10.1289/ehp.9300 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 18 August 2006]

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There is an increasing need to prevent or mitigate known exposures, extrapolate environmental remediation knowledge, and share lessons of effective risk communication from industrialized countries with less developed areas of the world. To facilitate this process, global health concerns resulting from environmental exposures need to be addressed universally. Additionally, the global scientific community must commit to working together to help find solutions to these health issues as they are experienced throughout the world. If the next generation of health scientists is to act as stewards of the environment, this group must place more emphasis on sharing existing knowledge with all nations, specifically by collaborating with other nations that are dealing with the same environmental challenges.

The International Central and Eastern European Health Conference was held in Prague, Czech Republic, in October 2004. This location was selected because current social, political, and economic transitions in this region have resulted in a dramatic impact on environmental and occupational exposures. During the past two decades, the period of political change, inadequate/aging infrastructure, and a lack of economic resources in Eastern and Central Europe have resulted in increased pollution and public health risk (Bell 2000; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 1999). A lack of regulation of environmental pollution and an increase in poor industrial and agricultural practices have resulted in increased air and water pollution as well as soil contamination (Jedrychowski 1995; Woolfson 2006).

The purpose of this commentary is to summarize some of the main conference themes that were identified by the international graduate students who participated in the platform discussions at the conference. These students were asked to share their opinions and to prioritize the predominant environmental issues facing their respective countries, and to provide potential solutions for them. These forums identified societal and political issues as a potential challenge to implementing environmental reforms, whereas education and training were described as some of the most immediate ways to initiate action on these issues. …

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