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 to 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. 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 over the world illustrate the diverse environmental problems that this science can provide solutions for.
What is ‘Medical Geology’
The book starts with the analysis of the perspectives and prospects of this relatively new discipline of geology. In the beginning, there is a brief explanation of 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 science, the authors start lining ancient findings on Chinese and Greek medicine. The story ends with the development of 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 needs to have basic knowledge of 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 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 the 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, the 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 human and animal health.
The book is mainly referring to natural sources. For example, volcanic eruptions can cause a large loss of life from air pollutants (dust and gases). Furthermore, they can be the source of radon that through inhalation can cause lung cancer.
Moreover, water is a major pathway because it weathers 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, the soil is a 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 lifestyles.
Environmental medicine is a synthesis of toxicology, pathology, and epidemiology. Its aim is to minimize or prevent adverse effects on human health.
This part of the book explains the role of environmental epidemiology in environmental medicine. It provides 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. In the case of environmental medicine and medical geology, a corporation is the arsenic exposure through drinking water.
Finally, the section analyses pathology and toxicology and their significance in 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 how you can do Medical Geology. Specifically, these scientists have already developed 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 tools to visualize the relationship between 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 into the distribution of vector-borne diseases. In addition, mineralogical techniques are tools to characterize biominerals that affect human health.
In addition, the author describes histochemical techniques to treat human tissue. Finally, computer models that monitor groundwater flow have applications in medical geology.
In conclusion, the book ‘Essentials of Medical Geology’ is a treasure for medical geology science. It is a guide for geoscientists on the scope of medical geology.
In addition, it gives numerous examples are research projects on this discipline of geology. In this way, it made clear its potentials and applications.
Moreover, medical researchers can also understand the role of geoscientists in public health. It demonstrates that they can work with a medical geologist to unravel even the most puzzling health problems.
Therefore I totally recommend this book to anyone that has a genuine interest in science.
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