Medical Geology


Medical geology is an emerging (or re-emerging) discipline that, broadly defined, examines the public health impacts of geologic materials and geologic processes.

It is a dynamic discipline bringing together the geoscience, biomedical, and public health communities to solve a wide range of environmental health problems.

Practitioners of Medical Geology have five principal goals:

1) To identify geochemical anomalies in soils, sediments, and water that may adversely impact human and animal health;

2) To identify the environmental causes of known health problems and, in collaboration with bio- medical/public health researchers, seek solutions to prevent or minimize these problems;

3) To evaluate the beneficial health effects of geologic materials and process;

4) To reassure the public when there are unwarranted environmental health concerns associated with geologic materials or processes;

5) To forge links between developed and developing countries to find solutions for environmental health problems.

Among the environmental health problems that geologists and the medical community need to collaborate on include: exposure to natural dust and to radioactivity; exposure to toxic levels of trace essential and non-essential elements such as arsenic and mercury; nutrient trace element deficiencies; naturally occurring toxic organic and inorganic compounds in drinking water; identification and effects of volcanic emissions, etc. Geoscientists have also developed an array of tools and databases that can be used by the environmental health community to study vector-borne diseases, to model the dispersion of pollutants in surface and ground water and in the air, and can be applied to occupational health problems resulting from exposure to minerals.

Bunnell et al., 2007
Bunnell, J.E., Finkelman, R.B., Centeno, J.A., Selinus, O. 2007
Medical geology: a globally emerging discipline
Geologica Acta, 5 (3): 273-281