Essentials of Medical Geology is a book introducing the science ‘Medical Geology‘ and its application in modern science and research. Moreover the book gives knowledge for everyone: doctors, geoscientists and geologists. Hence is a collection of research projects all over the world that demonstrate the importance of medical geology.
Editors of the book include the founder members of the International Medical Geology Association. On the other collaborators of the book are professionals from universities and research centers in Europe, America, Australia, Africa, New Zealand and Asia. Therefore experiences of researchers all of the world illustrate the diverse environmental problems that this science can provide solutions for.
What is ‘Medical Geology’?
The book ‘Essentials of Medical Geology’ starts with the analysis of the perspectives and prospects of this relatively new discipline of geology. On the beginning there is a brief explanation on what is medical geology and the book’s goals.
In specific the book starts with the explanation that ‘medical geology is the science dealing with the relationship between natural geological factors and health in humans and animals and with understanding the influence of ordinary environmental factors on the geographical distribution of such health problems’. It continues with a brief reference on the pioneers of the concept ‘medical geology’: Paracelsus and Hippocrates.
In addition the history of medical geology development is extensively explained. Starting with the foundations of the science, the authors start lining ancient findings on Chinese and Greek medicine. The story ends with the development of the science by gaining knowledge from single-element health studies.
Introduction to Environmental Biology
In order to understand elements and how they can cause damage, someone need to have basic knowledge on environmental biology. This part of the book emphasizes the importance of the biogeochemical cycle and the concept of bioavailability. Hence environmental biology can describe the interaction between geological and and anthropogenic sources and life.
Moreover it is introducing the goal of medical geology to distinguish anthropogenic sources from natural sources. In addition it also gives chemical knowledge on elements’ behavior within cells and the uptake mechanisms into organisms.
Finally the sections discuss physiology and toxicity of elements by giving a number of examples to specific elements.
This part of the book is essential for any medical geologist as it explains that the presence of elements is not equal to health problems. More importantly, bioavailability of the elements is to cause health issues.
We are what we Eat, Drink and Breath
In the following section, the book describes the major pathways of elements into the human body. It discusses that pollutants have dramatic effects on the composition of air, water and food and therefore impact the human and animal health.
The book is mainly referring to natural sources. For example volcanic eruptions can cause large loss of life from air pollutants (dusts and gases). Furthermore they can be the source of radon that through inhalation can cause lung cancer.
Moreover water is a major pathway because of it weather rocks. Therefore drinking water can have high concentrations of arsenic and fluorite that lead to chronic exposure. On the other hand water hardness can influence human health.
In addition soil is pathway into animals and humans through plant intake or even directly, through ingestion.
Finally medical geology in relation to animal health is studied separately, because of their different lifestyle.
Environmental medicine is a synthesis of toxicology, pathology and epidemiology. Its aim is to minimize or prevent the adverse effects on human health.
This part of the book explains the role of environmental epidemiology in environmental medicine. It provide a guide on how to read and understand epidemiological studies.
In addition there are practices of environmental medicine that focus on geological materials and processes. On case of environmental medicine and medical geology corporation is the arsenic exposure through drinking water.
Finally the section analyses pathology and toxicology and their significance on recognizing toxic metals.
Tools and techniques in Medical Geology
The final part of the book is maybe the most important for geoscientists and medical researchers and it describes on how you can do Medical Geology. Specifically these scientists have already develop tools and techniques that now can also be used to study health problems due to geology.
Firstly Geographical Information System (GIS) is one of the most powerful tool to visualize the relationship of health problems and the environment. One example of GIS application in medical geology is the study that demonstrated the relationship of dental fluorosis to domestic coal combustion in China.
On the other hand remote sensing was used to gain insights on the distribution of vector-borne diseases. In addition mineralogical techniques are tools to characterize biominerals that affect human health.
In addition author describe histochemical techniques to treat human tissue. Finally computer models that monitor groundwater flow have applications in medical geology.