Beyond toxicity: human health and the natural environment

Am J Prev Med. 2001 Apr;20(3):234-40. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(00)00317-2.

Abstract

Research and teaching in environmental health have centered on the hazardous effects of various environmental exposures, such as toxic chemicals, radiation, and biological and physical agents. However, some kinds of environmental exposures may have positive health effects. According to E.O. Wilson's "biophilia" hypothesis, humans are innately attracted to other living organisms. Later authors have expanded this concept to suggest that humans have an innate bond with nature more generally. This implies that certain kinds of contact with the natural world may benefit health. Evidence supporting this hypothesis is presented from four aspects of the natural world: animals, plants, landscapes, and wilderness. Finally, the implications of this hypothesis for a broader agenda for environmental health, encompassing not only toxic outcomes but also salutary ones, are discussed. This agenda implies research on a range of potentially healthful environmental exposures, collaboration among professionals in a range of disciplines from public health to landscape architecture to city planning, and interventions based on research outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Hazardous Substances / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Nature*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States

Substances

  • Hazardous Substances