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Environmental Hygiene; All You Should Know

Environmental hygiene covers all the practical prevention and control measures used to improve the basic environmental conditions affecting human health. Some of these environmental conditions include:

  • Clean water supply
  • Human and animal waste disposal
  • Protection of food from contamination
  • Provision of healthy housing, all of which are concerned with the quality of the human environment.

In a layman term, we can simply say that environmental hygiene means keeping our environment clean. In this article, we will be using these terms interchangeably.

The environment compasses not only the natural surroundings – the air, the water, the plants and animals used for food – but also shelter, modes of transportation and all other products of technology, including pollutants and waste materials; all of which interact to affect health. Environmental considerations become increasingly important during these times of changing emphasis in the fields of energy, economics and technology.

Inadequate routine cleaning of the environment has been implicated in the transmission of gastrointestinal, respiratory illnesses and other disease which uses germs and viruses as vectors.


Why Environmental Hygiene Matters

Research has shown harmful pathogens such as Clostridium difficileStaphylococci and vancomycin-resistant enterococci can survive on surfaces for months, and they are just a few of the potentially disease-producing bacteria or viruses that can be transmitted to patients.

The length of time pathogens can survive on surfaces is a matter of concern when you consider how inefficiently those surfaces are cleaned.


Take for instance;

It is an established fact that germs are everywhere e.g. on people, food, and pets. Germs can survive on environmental surfaces like floors, tables, door handles, and toys for a long period of time.

Viruses can be shed in large numbers in respiratory secretions and in faeces, they can survive on surfaces for days, or in the case
of certain viruses such as norovirus (the virus responsible for winter vomiting illness), for weeks.

Hence maintaining good environmental hygiene is therefore a vital part of good infection prevention and control.


We cannot talk about environmental hygiene without mentioning some key terminologies. Here are some of the key terminologies which also are very focal in keeping our environment clean.

How to maintain good environmental hygiene


1. Cleaning: Cleaning is a mechanical process (scrubbing) using detergent and water to remove food residues, dirt, debris and grease.

Cleaning is essential in the prevention of infection. Normal cleaning methods, using household detergents and warm water is considered to be sufficient to reduce the number of germs in the environment to a safe level.


How to Clean

  • Cleaning is best achieved using a general purpose detergent and warm water, clean cloths, mops and the mechanical action of wiping/scrubbing. The area should then be rinsed and dried.
  • Thorough cleaning with detergents should remove all contaminants including dust, dirt, faeces, blood, pus, urine, other body fluids and large numbers of germs.

Cleaning also involve sweeping, tidying up the environment and proper waste disposal.


2. Disinfection: This is a process that uses chemicals (disinfectants e.g. household bleach) or heat (e.g. dishwashers) to reduce the number of bacteria on environmental surfaces to a safe level.
Disinfectants are chemicals that will reduce the number of germs to a level at which they are not harmful.

The routine use of chemical disinfectants for environmental hygiene is not recommended as thorough regular cleaning with detergent and warm water is sufficient for most situations.

A disinfectant is recommended however, in circumstances where there is a higher risk of cross-infection (e.g. During
outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness) or if there has been a spillage of blood, faeces or vomit.

Disinfectants are potentially hazardous and must be used with caution and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Surfaces and items must be cleaned before a disinfectant is applied as most disinfectants are inactivated by dirt.


3. Clean air: The last thing I will love to consider in this article is clean air.


What is clean air?

Clean air is air that has no harmful levels of pollutants (dirt, dust, airborne microbes, and chemicals) in it which is essential to good health and a basic human need.

Since our environment includes the air we breath, it is important that we ensure that we breath clean air.

Though there are air filters which promises us clean air, are best option is to reduce activities which can pollute the air in our environment.


Other measures to keep our environment clean include:

  • Proper disposal of human and animal waste disposal
  • Protection of food from contamination
  • Provision of healthy housing, all of which are concerned with the quality of the human environment.


In conclusion, to maintain a good environmental hygiene, we have to do these three major things:

  • Clean our environment regularly
  • Disinfect the environment where necessary
  • Sustain clean air in the environment


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