Hello reddit,

My name is Dave Dyjack, Dr.PH, CIH. I’m the executive director of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and have been working the environmental health field for over 30 years.

I’m here to answer your questions about environmental health and its connection to issues like food safety, sustainability, climate change, healthy homes and communities, and water quality to name a few. I’ll be checking in throughout the day, so keep those questions coming.

Proof: http://neha.org/news/release/march2015-Executive-Director.html


EDIT: Great questions so far. Just wanted to say that I will be stepping away from my desk for a bit throughout the day, but keep those questions coming. I will be back in a bit and will answer as many as I can. Thank you all for participating!

EDIT #2: Regretfully our session today must come to an end. I deeply appreciate everyone who submitted questions, and apologize to those for who I did not have an opportunity to respond. I share my thoughts on environmental health regularly through twitter: @DTDyjack

I look forward to our next encounter.


Comments: 161 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

Juddston31 karma

If you had to pick one thing that each person could do in their every day lives to make an impact towards a healthier environment, what would it be?

DavidDyjack56 karma

I believe it is an attitude versus a specific thing. Having said that, eating lower on the food chain, that is, primarily a vegetarian diet, is very helpful all around in that less fossil fuels, antibiotics and waste products are produced.

hikeon324 karma

Mr. Dyjack; as someone who likely will never become a vegetarian (except by necessity), is spending my food dollars on sustainably/ethically raised animal products actually impactful in any meaningful way? Or is it simply an industry pacifier that I'm fortunate enough to pay for?

DavidDyjack44 karma

You guys are asking some tough questions. I believe there is a "normal" distribution of ethics among the producers. I am not vegetarian, and at the same time try to eat a plant-based diet when ever I can control myself, and consume ethically harvested and raised animal products. An ideal approach is to be a "locavore", eat food raised locally, then you will know for certain the practices of the growers.

Rodcod20 karma

Serious question; should I recycle?

DavidDyjack65 karma

Serious answer, it is better to "reduce" than "recycle". Recycling can generate its own set of environmental challenges, which are absent if we live thoughtful lives. For example, bottled water. We can recycle those plastic bottles although it would be better for the environment and more cost efficient to simply drink tap water from a reusable container.

breva14 karma

What advice do you have for someone graduating in Environmental, Health and Safety soon?

DavidDyjack16 karma

Thanks for your question. While you need to be technically proficient, ensure your writing and presentation skills are top shelf. Consider being active in the local chapter of your professional association, and secure certification in your chosen professional domain.

bobelli11 karma

Hello, how has the environment changed over the last 20 or so years? and where do you see things go into the future?

DavidDyjack23 karma

We are headed into an era of ecosystem fragmentation, which will give rise to the next generation of zoonotic and vectorborne diseases, such as Ebola and Lyme disease. I encourage readers to familiarize themselves with the 1-Health movement.

tweezering5 karma

Hi Dave! Thanks for doing this! I've always been interested in environmental health and especially food safety and sustainable food processes. What tips could you give someone who is looking to start working in this field?

DavidDyjack5 karma

Hi - there is plenty of opportunity in the EH field, as long as you are willing to move to a new state or community. Think outside your local region. If you are in school, intern with an employer that you might desire to work for in the future. Finally, attend local professional meetings as they often announce job opportunities after the meal.

MrLayman4 karma

I recently graduated with a Bachelors degree in Public Health from an accredited university and am having trouble finding a job. The environmental courses that I took were some of the most intriguing and were definitely some of my favorite parts of the curriculum. How did you get your career started in this field, and what advice do you have for someone who is wanting to get his or her foot in the door for this line of work?

DavidDyjack7 karma

Thanks for the opportunity to address this question. I do have recommendations. First, consider work at a local health department. Virtually every health department has an environmental health program, and health officials have told me they are having trouble recruiting a qualified workforce. Consider relocating to mid-America for a while (away from the coastal states). Finally, consider the CDC PHAP program, designed for individuals who have bachelors degree and want to gain experience.

Aust1e4 karma

Hi Dave! A friend of mine argues that individuals reducing their use of resources pales in comparison to companies and corporations, and therefore it is not worth an individual's efforts. My question is, what do you think is most needed, individuals reducing their impact (and if so- how should we go about encouraging this) or larger corporations reducing their impact? Thanks so much for doing this!

DavidDyjack11 karma

Companies and corporations respond to you the consumer. Vote with your pocketbook and use your purchasing "vote" by supporting companies that are aligned with your values. Companies are sensitive to "wasted" resources, and are always looking to reduce their exposure to bad press and cost of inefficiency.

TheSovietGoose2 karma

How does environmental health affect me?

DavidDyjack2 karma

There is a reciprocal relationship between you and your environment. Think about it, you likely woke up indoors where the air you breathed was cleaned by an HVAC filter, presumably flushed body wastes down the toilet, you washed (I hope!) in bacteria-free water, made coffee with safe drinking water, ate breakfast that was safe and free from contaminants. In the absence of a safe and healthy environment, your life expectancy drops dramatically.

Newtdawg1 karma

Dr. Dyjack, thank you for taking the time to do this AMA.

I have the opportunity to work in Beijing for a few years. I'm 33 and healthy.

What sort of health complications might I expect from living there? Is there anything I can do to minimize them? Is it okay to jog outdoors during 'good' smog days? Do you expect the pollution to decline in the coming years?

DavidDyjack1 karma

Hi, I spent a summer in China a few years ago, and the air quality in urban areas is poor. Generally speaking, consider exercising indoors any time of year. poor air quality will be an issue for the foreseeable future. Also, you should anticipate food and water related disturbances to your GI tract, which can be minimized by preparing your own meals or eating street food which can be observed being cooked. But don't be paranoid.Having said that, I am jealous, Beijing is one of the great tourist cities on the planet. Be safe.

H4Kek1 karma

Why is it that Maine has relatively good air quality but one of highest rates of asthma?

DavidDyjack2 karma

Asthma is a complicated multi-factoral disease. Asthma episodes can be brought on by stress, physical activity as well as air contaminants, including cockroach, mite, cat dander and other irritants associated with the indoor environment. So, the short answer is that that indoor air quality, lifestyle, and other mediating factors can be associated with asthma.

Thescepticscientist1 karma

I live in the great lakes area and graduated with a biology degree. My girlfriend (from California) is constantly harassing me for wasting water when we live in the country and have well/septic fields. She even bothers me about it when it's raining. Can you explain that being concerned about saving water in Michigan is like being concerned about saving sand in a desert. In my opinion it's more about keeping it clean and usable, not over using unless I am totally missing something about the water cycle and that its not all going to the same place?

DavidDyjack5 karma

Mark Twain once said "Whiskey is for Drinking and Water is for fighting over". I side with your girlfriend. Just because a resource is in abundant supply, that should not translate in capricious consumption. Water is indeed the new oil (not my quote), we should use each drop wisely, irrespective of its relative abundance. My two cents.

StingingSwingrays1 karma

Hi Mr. Dyjack, I would first like to say thank you so much for doing this AMA. Awareness regarding the links between environmental health and human health is so, so important. Which leads me to my questions...

  1. How do you go about inspiring people to champion environmental health? And how do you show people that standing up for the environment isn't just for the whales and the trees, but it's for our entire society? For example, when I tell my roommate or some friends that I study Sustainability, I am often met with infuriatingly patronizing responses along the lines of "oh, that's cute" or "that's nice, but how will that be useful, ever?" People just don't get that literally everything in their lives depends upon a healthy environment. Even more concerning is that I'm getting these responses in the world of academia, where people are generally more informed.

  2. Do you think apathy or lack of understanding that human health is very tightly linked to environmental health in the general public is a legitimate issue? Have you seen it throughout your working career?

DavidDyjack2 karma

I have strong opinions on your questions, and would be delighted to weigh in. EH professionals have fallen prey to the "evidence based decision making" agenda at the expense of our mission. EH is a profoundly local issue, and "intimate" issue. We should frame our work and results in personal terms. For example, what is more intimate than the food we place in our children's mouths? The water we bathe them in? The mosquitoes that fly around us at night? I will be speaking at the NEHA Annual conference in July on this issue, and will introduce a metaphor and new way of speaking about us and our profession, which I hope will provide a path forward and enhance our visibility and influence.