EHS 500: Principles of Environmental Health Sciences


EHS 500, Fall semester, 3 credits (Syllabus)

Description: This course provides an overview of key environmental health disciplines, methods, and topics. As such, it is designedas a “survey” course of an enormous subject area, and it serves as the UMSPH Department of Environmental Health Science’s main introductory course for a wide audience of UM students. This course fulfills the MPH core competency in environmental health. A basic understanding (high school level) of human biology and chemistry is recommended. With regards to pre-requisites, although some basic knowledge of chemistry, human biology and physiology is assumed, no professional training in medicine or health care is required.

Though many definitions exist for environmental health, for the purposes of this course we will adopt the third definition offered in Exhibit 1.1 (pg xxxi) in the course textbook: “Environmental health comprises those aspects of human health and disease that are determined by factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing and controlling factors in the environment that can potentially affect health.” [European Charter on Environment and Health].

This course is organized along four “Sections”. Section 1: A series of didactic lectures will be provided that introduce the core principles of environmental health science; Section 2: Key ‘environments’ will be described with several real-world examples provided; Section 3: Sensitive groups will be described with associated discussion questions posted online; and Section 4: Student-led debates will explore differing viewpoints on contemporary environmental health issues, and each topic will be supplemented with a brief didactic lecture and online discussions.

Course objectives: The objectives of this course are:

  • Introduction to the historical, current, and future need for environmental health science as a field of study, from a scientific, practical, and personal perspective
  • Familiarization with key sources and exposure routes of environmental and occupational agents, with a focus on chemical and physical stressors
  • Discussion of how core principles in toxicology (e.g., toxicokinetics, dose-responses) pertain to the environmental health sciences
  • Understand risk assessment approaches to integrate sources, exposure pathways, and adverse health outcomes
  • Identify sensitive populations within the environmental health

Course outcomes: The students that have taken this class are expected to be able to:

  • Identify chemical and physical hazards in a range of common environments (e.g., home, work, aquatic)
  • Describe the pathways by which humans are exposed to chemical and physical agents
  • Recognize adverse health effects associated with common environmental and occupational stressors
  • Understand the role of research on identifying, analyzing, and controlling exposures and environmental health hazards
  • Find and apply information (e.g., policies, databases) relevant to the environmental health sciences
  • Work harmoniously with students from other disciplines (within public health and beyond) to address relevant yet contentious environmental health issues