Chemicals are everywhere. Literally. We are made of them. They make up our food, water and air and they are increasingly added to the everyday products that we eat or use. While some chemicals may be harmful, others are vital to our health, so how do we know what impact they are having and which we should be trying to avoid?

In recent years, mounting evidence has highlighted the damaging effects of the chemicals used on our food. Glyphosate based pesticides and herbicides have been shown to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to the emergence of serious kidney disease found in agricultural workers. It is not only those working in agriculture who are affected, glyphosate has also been found in the urine of people in 18 countries across Europe, which raises concerns about the increasing levels of exposure to these kinds of chemicals. Not to mention the decline in bee populations, which has been strongly linked to the use of neonicotinoids, resulting in a two year ban in Europe.

A new online course from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been launched with the aim of educating students about the potentially harmful effects of some of the many chemicals that we encounter day-to-day, throughout our lives.

The course addresses how chemicals are made, how they get into our bodies and the environment, what they do when they get there and the regulations and laws surrounding them.

The format will consist of lectures from US leaders in the field of environmental health, which will last around twenty minutes. In addition, you will also have access to videos, a discussion forum, two multiple choice quizzes and two peer graded writing assignments. The syllabus will cover:

  • Chemicals in our environment: What is a chemical and how are we exposed?
  • Toxicology: What do chemicals do in our bodies?
  • Biomonitoring: Who and how are we measuring these chemicals in our bodies?
  • Health effects of chemicals: How do we figure out how chemicals affect our health?
  • Chemicals policy: What do we do about chemicals and health?
  • Case studies

You don’t need to have a scientific background to take part in the course. The aim is to reach the general public and give everyone a better understanding of the chemicals present in our environment and their possible impacts on our health.

The course begins on Monday 15th September and continues for 6 weeks. It’s free to take part, however participants who wish to receive a verified certificate on completion of the course will need to pay a fee. Click here to register.

Featured image by T P Martins

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