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Environmental Health-An Islamic View

M. A. Karim
3/3/2013
20328 views

Let us take some examples of this rivalry in worldly gains.

1. Water

Whereas three litres of water a day per person were sufficient to cover all the needs of a person in the desert, those settled in a city today need 2000 litres a day, which includes what they need for drinking, grooming, washing, cleaning their houses and surroundings, and watering the lawn, as well as a percentage of what is consumed by the irrigation of the farms that produce their food, meeting the needs of factories which manufacture the products they use, the cattle that produce meat and milk which they eat and drink, and so on. Because of that he needs to dig wells, build canals, create water distribution networks, and construct dams and reservoirs.

 

 

Civilized people, however, pollute and contaminate water at every stage they use it, at the level of personal consumption, with the viruses, bacteria, parasites and other organic waste they throw into it; at the level of household consumption, with the detergents and other chemicals, as well as the above- mentioned organisms, they add to it; at the level of agricultural consumption, with the pesticides and fertilizers they add, as well as the animal wastes that are often carriers of disease agents; and finally at the level of industrial consumption, with the factory wastes that directly pour into it, or with the air pollutants that are absorbed into it.

 

 

The list of elements that contaminate water is very long. It is difficult to produce a complete list. The most important are as follows:

 

 

a) Organic waste: This comes from household rubbish in cities as well as the countryside, and from industrial waste of animal or plant origin. Although rubbish is the most important source of rotting organic waste, industries contribute an equal amount of such waste, particularly the food and paper industries which pour into water great quantities of plant and animal matter.

 

 

The decomposition of organic waste, caused by bacteria, drains the oxygen out of the water, causing serious problems, particularly in its destruction of fish and other acquatic creatures, and generating conditions suitable for septic pollution.

 

 

b) Living factors: Most important among these are bacteria, viruses and all disease-causing microbes. They are introduced into water with household garbage or with some industrial wastes, particularly those produced by tanning and slaughter houses. While cholera and typhoid bacteria have been effectively controlled in most developed countries, they still form a great threat in many .developing regions. More difficult to fight are the viruses which cause enteritis ~ and other infections, thus creating a serious health problem.

 

 

c) Fertilizers: Fertilizing agents, which invigorate the growth of plants, are also a major water pollutant. Their main polluting constituents are nitrogen and phosphorus, although other constituents may produce slight polluting effects.

 

 

These elements are discharged into water with rubbish, industrial waste, or with the run-off of fertilized lands and nitrogen-rich soil. Biological treatment of the water to remove waste does not remove these plant-nutrients from it, but rather makes them more useful to water plants, such as moss, algae and the like. Serious problems result from this fertilization, the taste and smell of the water become awful, and the extensive growth of the water plants consumes much oxygen.

 

 

d) Organic synthetic chemicals: These include detergents and other household cleaning agents, pesticides and industrial chemicals. The most important of these are probably insecticides, like DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, and other agents, which are used to kill agricultural pests but which manage to get into water bodies.

 

 

e) Non-organic chemicals: The most serious element in this field is mercury contamination, which is the cause of serious problems in running water in the many locations. From the water, the contamination is transmitted to water microbes, fish, game birds, and ultimately to humans. This minerals contamination results from mining, industrial.activities, irrigation, and oil-field operatIons.  Moreover, great quantItIes of acId, of all types, are poured Into water as one ingredient of industrial waste.

 

 

f) Radioactive elements. These water polluting elements are products of the nuclear industries, bot~ at the stage of mining and treatment of radioactive metals and the stage of lusing refined radioactive elements and nuclear reactors in industry, medical diagnosis, and research. Added to that is the atomic fallout that results from variou$ nuclear explosions.

 

 

g) Hot water. The use of excessive amounts of water in industry is a new type of pollution. The ttemendous amounts of water used for cooling in power plants, oil refineries and petrochemical industries are restored to the lakes, streams, or coastal waters from which they were originally derived, raising the water temperature. On the one hand this practice decreases oxygen solubility in water which, in turn, reduces the decomposition of oxygen-consuming polluters and the food available for fish and other water creatures. On the other hand, the hot water may have a direct effect on these creatures by changing their physical environment, and thus reducing their reproductive rate. The high temperature of the water also speedsiup oxygen-consummg reactions.

                               

 

 

h) Oil: Water can be polluted by the oil spilled by tankers or ships, or as a result of accidents or negligence when crude oil is transported. It is estimated that 1.5 million tonnes lof oil are spilled into oceans every year. Oil-polluted water causes considerable havoc to aquatic life and the oil greatly pollutes the food of fish and seafood.

 

 

The harmful effectsl of water contamination on human health have been known for a long timej They are evident in the pollution of drinking water, indoor and coastal swimming waters, and the water used in irrigation and fisheries. Poor sanitatio* and waste treatment in many developing countries are responsible for the extdnsive pollution of surface and underground water. To this is added the occasipnal, above-mentioned spill of dangerous pollutants in river and sea waters, wtiich results in harmful contamination, to which aquatic life, the food chain, a(1d human beings are exposed. Needless to say, the extermination of fish and other types of aquatic life poses a serious health problem, because of the disturbance it causes in the diet of all beings who feed upon water creatures.

 

 

2. Air

    In all the texts I have read, I have come across no definition of the air more concise and precise than that given by Ibn Sina one thousand years ago:

 

 

By air we mean that substance diffused in space. It is a mixture of ( 1) real air, (2) water vaporous components, (3) rising dry land components borne by smoke and dust, and (4) fire components.

As we know today, the atmosphere consists of a mixture of (1) permanent gases (or let us say real air), namely oxygen and nitrogen; (2) gases with varying concentration (or let us say water vaporous segments), namely water vapour and carbon dioxide; (3) various airborne solid and liquid components (or let us say rising dry land components borne by smoke and dust); and (4) various types of radiation (or let us say fire components), which come from outer space (cosmic rays) and from the sun.

 

 

Some of these components in the air deserve some elaboration.

Of gases, particular attention should be given to carbon dioxide, which is emitted into air with the exhalation of animals and plants and from burning processes. It is reduced in the air through the process of photosynthesis. The constant activities of human beings have greatly modified the amount of this gas contained in the air, increasing it by 25% during the past century, and it keeps on increasing. This increase is due to fossil fuel burning and the cutting down of forests, trees and grasses, which increase carbon dioxide production and reduce its consumption.

 

 

Another gas is ozone, which is a three-atom form of oxygen (03). It is a peculiar gas. In the lower strata of the atmosphere, it is an irritating element, abrasive to the mucous membranes particularly in the respiratory system, while in the upper strata, it is a protective element by virtue of its high absorption of ultra-violet rays radiated by the sun. It blocks most of the ultra-violet radiation with a wavelength below 310 nanometres, which may destroy living organisms.

 

 

Ozone is produced in the upper strata when short-wave sun rays are absorbed by molecular oxygen, but it turns back into molecular oxygen in the same upper strata as a result of the photochemical reactions stimulated by a number of gases particularly nitric oxide (NO), nitric dioxide (NO2), chlorine (Cl), and chlorine oxide (ClO). The amounts of nitric stimulants are rising with the increase of gases discharged by the engine exhaust systems of aircraft flying at high altitudes and with the increased use of nitric fertilizers. Similarly, the amounts of chlorine stimulants are rising with the increase in use of chlorine gases, particularly fluorocarbons (CF2CI3 and CFCI3), which are constant in lower atmospheric strata, but which in the upper strata quickly decompose under the influence of ultra-violet rays, releasing their active chlorine. These fluorocarbons are increasingly used in aerosol sprays and cooling appliances. It has recently been recognized that the exhaustion of upper strata ozone by the above-mentioned methods, results in a greater exposure of all living creatures, including people, to the harmful effects of ultra-violet rays.

 

 

Originally, ozone exists in the earth' s atmosphere, finding its way there from the upper strata, in non-harmful concentrations (10-30 parts per one billion). However the same nitric stimulants which cause its decomposition in the upper atmosphere, particularly the nitric oxides and hydrocarbons emitted by vehicle exhaust systems, help to produce it in the lower strata, and its harmful effects begin with increased asthma attacks (when it reaches a concentration of 150 parts per billion) and throat irritation (at 300 per million). It is also harmful to plants and slows their growth.

 

 

Since we have referred to what Ibn Sina calls "fire components," let us speak of another type of solar radiation, i.e. infra-red rays, which are projected by the sun onto the earth' s surface, where it is absorbed and then projected up again. This time most of it is absorbed by the carbon dioxide and water vapour in the atmosphere. Immediately these send the rays back to earth or into outer space. Thus, water vapour and carbon dioxide function as a blanket which maintains the warmth of the earth surface, keeping it thirty-six degrees warmer than it would have been otherwise. This phenomenon is generally known as the greenhouse effect, although the expression is erroneous, because a greenhouse maintains the temperature of the things it covers by preventing transmission of heat through conduction, while the atmospheric blanket prevents heat transmission through radiation.

 

 

The burning of coal, petroleum and gas, particularly in cities, increases the amount of carbon dioxide contained in the air, and consequently increases the local air temperature and the temperature of the world in general, upsetting the heat balance maintained by the projection of infrared rays from the sun and their repeated reflection between the earth and the atmosphere.

 

 

This is not all that is related to the change in the proportions of air elements. There is also the problem of the air being polluted by alien elements which are in conflict with its normal composition and upset its balance. Ibn Sina said:

 

 

As long as the air is fair and pure, not mixed with an alien substance conflicting with the temperament of the spirit, it has a positive effect on health and maintains it. If it changes, it functions in a contrary manner.

 

 

1.- He elaborates on this by saying,

In essence, good air is that which is not mixed with any alien vapours or fumes. It is exposed to the sky, not confined between walls and ceilings, except where the air is afflicted with general contamination. In such a case, open air is more affected than covered or enclosed air.

The pollution of urban air, particularly in major metropolises, is a much more serious problem than the pollution of rural air. Ibn Khaldun referred to this in his Introduction 500 years ago:

 

 

Air in big cities is polluted by being mixed with foul vapours caused by excess of garbage.

 

 

This is a problem that has been growing more and more serious since the  Industrial Revolution. Many metropolises and big cities are now exposed to a terrible, suffocating atmosphere. City pollution is still on the increase, especially because of cars and trucks, the exhaust systems of which cause more than 56% of air pollution. Then there is the effect of aeroplanes, trains and steamers in the places where they exist. Next to the means of transport, the most dangerous polluters are the other sites of constant combustion like power plants and heating systems (22%), factories (15%), forest and harvest fires (5% ), and the incineration of solid waste (2% ).

 

 

The most important of the "alien substances conflicting with the temperament of the spirit", as Ibn Sina put it, are carbon monoxide, suspended particles, sulfur oxides, gaseous hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and ozone. The amount of these items which hangs in the air over the United States alone is estimated to be 194 million metric tonnes. There is a seventh contaminating item, which consists of the dangerous poisons discharged into the air by some specific factories.

As for carbon monoxide, the notorious poisonous gas, it is mainly produced by imperfect combustion of carbon fuel, particularly in cars.

 

 

The smog, particles and microorganisms (SPM) suspended in the air are solid or liquid particles of a size ranging between smoke, soot and smog, which are visible, and organisms that can only be seen with an electronic microscope. These small particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time, and can be swept by the wind and carried across long distances. The major sources of SPM are combustion appliances, such as heaters and electric generators, which produce most of the visible particles and a high percentage of the invisible gases, which soon turn into aerosols. To these are added particles of sand, gravel and cement which remain suspended and may be carried far away. More than one billion people inhabit regions where SPM pollution exceeds the limits set by the WHO.

 

 

Of sulfur oxides, the most important are sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and all other sulfates. They are produced by carbon fuel, most of which is sulfur polluted, but some types of factories produce it as well. Information collected by WHO and the World Environment Programme in 1987 indicate that over six hundred million people live in urban areas where the average sulfur dioxide pollution is above the maximum limit set by WHO.

 

 

Gaseous hydrocarbons are not poisonous in themselves, in the amounts in which they exist in the air, but they are major air pollutants due to the role they play in producing ozone and all oxidizers. Most of these gases are products of urban areas, where metal polishing workshops, paint factories, printing houses, gasoline and diesel distribution plants, and cleaning establishments are located. Nitrogen oxides are formed when nitrogen and oxygen unite at the high ; temperatures of fuel combustion, and their danger lies in their role in producing ozone.

 

 

The harm of ozone as a throat irritant and the damage it causes to the respiratory system have already been mentioned, particularly if exposure to it continues, when a cloud of what we call smoke fog, or smog, hovers over the city for several days.

 

 

There are finally toxic substances--such as asbestos, beryllium, mercury and vinyl chloride--which require special precautions in production, processing and use. To these one can add other items such as arsenic, benzene and certain radionuclides.

 

 

This pollution is hazardous to human health. The world still remembers what happened in London in 1952, when lethal smog caused the death of four thousand people; what happened in the industrial town of Donora, West Pennsylvania, when twenty people died and half the population fell sick as a result of a five-day smog. The survivors continued to suffer poor health. In 1953, two hundred people met their death in New York City because of a rise in the percentage of carbon oxides and SPM. By no means less terrible than these catastrophes are the long-lasting effects of air pollution on large city dwellers, ranging from chronic respiratory ailments, pulmo-emphysema and bronchitis, to the reduced ability of the healthy, whether adults or children, to perform physical exercises, to an increase in the mortality from other diseases such as cancer and heart diseases, to an increase in the incidence of asthma, allergy and respiratory diseases in children. The annual toll of pollution paid by the population of the United States is estimated at fifteen thousand deaths, seven million sick-leave days, and fifteen million days of reduced productivity. So learn, you who have eyes! (59:2)

 

 

The quality of air inside houses has only recently been considered as a potential health problem, hazardous to many people. The problem is most evident in the houses of millions of rural dwellers in developing countries, where fuel of organic origin or coal is used for domestic purposes. A WHO report estimates that about five hundred million people, mostly women and children, may be exposed to harmful effects resulting from the poisonou~ fumes and the smoke which are permanently present in their houses. Such problems, however, are not restricted to houses in the countryside or to developing countries. There is ample evidence that the air inside houses everywhere is polluted by many domestic and external factors, causing considerable harm to dwellers. In particular, we should not forget the smoking pandemic, and the air pollution caused by cigarette smoke wherever it takes place and the numerous health hazards which affect passive smokers.

 

 

3. Chemicals

Chemicals have become an indispensable part of human life, because they help humans in their activities and sustain human development. They protect against, and fight, many diseases, increase agricultural productivity and bring many benefits to communities. But one cannot deny that many of these chemicals may have a bad effect on health if a person is directly exposed to them when they are manufactured, transported, distributed, dispensed, used or disposed of. Moreover, uncontrolled disposal of these chemicals and their waste may pollute the air, water, and the soil and result in food contamination and indirect harmful effects.

 

 

It is estimated that seventy thousand chemicals are handled on a day to day basis, and forty-eight thousand of these are handled in commercially significant t amounts. The majority of materials used will pollute air, water, food and soil in the form of residue or waste. Every year 700-1000 new chemical substances care introduced into business. Trade in chemicals is now an international business, and it has swept both developed and developing countries. At the same :ime, only a. few. countries have the means to undertake studies of these !" chemIcals and their poisonous and infectious aspects. "

 

 

Things are worse in developing countries, because many decision-makers , are ignorant of the medical consequences of these chemicals, which are neither used nor disposed of in a proper way and which, either deliberately or unintentionally, are regarded by domestic industries as non-hazardous.

 

 

To make things even worse, acute poisoning by such substances, leading to many deaths, occurs in many countries. Globally, poisoning by insecticides alone is estimated at one million cases per annum, and the number is on the increase. Even worse are the large-scale incidents, such as the release of methyl isocyanates in Bhopal, India; pills contaminated with insecticide in Iraq and Pakistan; contaminated cooking oil in Spain; food contaminated with pyrrolidin alkaloids in Afghanistan; and similar incidents. So, what can we do to rescue this environment as well as ourselves from the imbalance to which both it and we have been subjected?

 

 

I would like at this point to quote some reflections written down over fifty years ago by an outstanding scholar, the late Muhammad Ahmad AI- Gharnrawi. He said:

 

 

God has known this complex civilization will come into being, that the doors of science will be open before it, that this science will provide it with various kinds of power, and that this power will lead it to various kinds of problems, which will find no satisfactory solutions unless the norms of nature set by God are observed. The human psyche has rules and principles, some of which are known to humanity, but those unknown are greater in number. If humanity is left to itself, its own knowledge and devices, it will not and cannot get out of the pitfalls into which it is bound to fall as a result of its exploration of physical science, which opens up for it the wealth and treasures of the earth without explaining the rightful way of using them. God wanted His favour to humans to be complete, by giving them both power and guidance in how to use it. So He gave men knowledge, but before giving them that knowledge he revealed to them the Book and Wisdom to show them how to protect themselves against evil knowledge and to ensure that they will reap the benefits of knowledge, by using it only up to the limits set by God, who has created humans and the powers He endowed them with through knowledge. While it is a splendid gift from God to humankind that He has given them the mind to explore the treasures of science, it is a greater gift that God has bestowed on them by revealing to them the religion to protect them against the hazards and evils which they cannot avoid by mind and knowledge alone.

And what does religion tell us?

 

 

God draws our attentions to what may occur if humans, indifferent to the various types of balance, go too far in exploiting the environment, which is what we are witnessing today. He says: lf God were to bestow abundance upon His servants, they would behave on the earth with wanton insolence. (42:27) He also says: Do not follow the counsel of those who are given to excesses, those who spread corruption on earth instead o:f setting things to rights. (26: 151-52) And He says: Had the Truth been in accordance with their desires, certainly heavens and the earth would have been corrupted. (23:71)

 

 

The problem then does not lie in the exploitation of the gifts of the sky and the resources of the earth, for that goes hand in hand with development and prosperity. It rather lies in the outrageous extremism, extravagance and transgression, all of which are synonyms that signify excess and indifference to balance, and all of which lead to upsetting the balance in a way that corrupts the environment and makes it unfit for human life. God warns in several places in the Quran against corruption of the earth. Corrupting the environment is the - first thing that springs to mind in this context. God says: Eat and drink of the sustenance God has provided, and do not corrupt the earth with evil. (2:60) He also says, Do not corrupt the earth. (7:85) In another verse God says: Do not corrupt the earth with evil. (29:36) And He also says: Do not strive for corruption in the land. (28:77) On many occasions, Prophets have warned their people against corruption of the earth.

 

 

God even makes special mention of the type of corruption that involves the uprooting of vegetation and animals. He says: There are some people whose words about this present life may please you; they even call upon God to witness what is in their hearts; whereas in fact they are the deadlieJt opponents. As soon as they hold authority, they go over the earth to spread corruption, destroying tilth and progeny. God does not like corruption. (2:204- 205)

 

 

This excess in the exploitation of the environment with no check or control is an injustice of the worst type. It is ingratitude for the favours bestowed by God, because gratitude for a favour means that one should maintain and guard it. God gives the example of a town which ...was once safe and secure. Its sustenance came to it in abundance from every quarter. But it was ungrateful for God's, favours. Therefore, He afflicted it with famine and fear for what it did. ( 16: 112) Speaking of similar towns, God says: Such is the scourge of your Lord when he chastises sinful towns. Harrowing and severe is His punishment. ( II: 102) But God was not unjust in treating them. (29:40) It was they who used to transgress in the earth and act unjustly ...Mankind, it is against your own souls that your offenses rebound. (10:23)

 

 

God does not stop at warning against corruption; he also points out the right way. He instructs the Prophet Say: ' My Lord has commanded you to be just' (7:29), meaning to be fair and moderate in all matters without going into either extreme. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made it clear that everything which may cause individual or collective harm is prohibited. He said, "There shall be no infliction of harm on oneself or others".

 

 

The putting into practice of these general principles by the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions has set an example to be followed by successive generations. I will select some marvellous examples in as much as space allows.

 

 

The Prophet (pbuh) sought to encourage agriculture in order to increase vegetation resources and enhance a benevolent environment. He said: "Whenever a Muslim plants or grows a saplipg or a plant, and a human being, a beast, or anything else feeds upon it, it is counted for him as an act of benevolence".

 

 

In his book Al-kharaj (Taxes), Yahya ibn Adam quotes Ali, the fourth Caliph, as saying: "Extend help against your desires. Seven ( or perhaps he said nine) people in a village may bring it to life, by God's will". A man said to Ali: "I came upon land that was in ruins and its owners had given up on it. I hired some streams and planted it". Ali replied, "Enjoy what you eat! You are a reformer rather than a corrupter, a constructive, rather than destructive, man!"

 

 

The Prophet (pbuh) was the first to establish environmental reservations, where trees could not be cut down and animals could not be killed. "God's messenger protected the whole of Medina, section by section, where no tree could be uprooted and nothing bigger than what can be used to drive a camel could be cut." "He did not allow any trees of Medina to be cut down." He said about the city that: "its game may not be scared, and none of its trees may be cut, except for a man feeding his camel".' He also said: "I forbid the trees between the two lavas of Medina to be cut down and the game to be killcd".4 Referring to the Wajj Valley in Taif, he said, "The game and trees of Wajj are forbidden".5

 

 

These injunctions were thoroughly understood and acted upon by Muslims. Refer, if you will, to what imam Ibn Hazm says in Al-muhalla:

Charity to animals is benevolence and piety, and when a man does not help with animal welfare, he is promoting sin and aggression and disobeying God the Almighty.

 

 

A Muslim is even compelled by force to irrigate palm trees if neglecting to do so would cause them to die. The same thing applies to other plants. The evidence in support of this is God's words: As soon as they hold authority, they go over the earth to spread corruption, destroying tilth and progeny. God does not like corruption. (2:205)

 

 

To keep an animal from the feed or grazing necessary for its survival, and to neglect the irrigation of fruit trees and plants until they perish, is according to God's own words corruption on earth and destruction of tilth and progeny. It is something which God does not like!

 

 

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to urge people to clean and not pollute their environment. He said: "To clear the road of all sources of harm is a benefaction".(; Benefaction, or sadaqa, is a term used in Islam to refer to what we call today civilized behaviour or civilized conduct, because as the derivation of the Arabic word suggests, it is the true evidence that an individual belongs to the civilized Muslim community. This is supported by the Prophet's (pbuh) statement that "Sadaqa is an irrefutable proof".

 

 

The Prophet's (pbuh) guidance also includes his injunction, "Let no One urinate in stagnant water".2 "The Prophet (pbuh) has forbidden anyone to urinate where he bathes."3 He used to say: "Avoid the two actions that bring peoples curses!" He was asked: "What are these?" "The one who defecates in the road and the shade used by others."4 He also said, " Avoid the three actions that bring people's curses: defecating in water sources, on roads, and in the shade."

 

 

The great scholar Al-Izz ibn Abd al-Salam summed up the rights of other people to be observed by a rational free adult as "bringing them all types of good and sparing them all kinds of harm. ..Good is used to mean bringing benefits and preventing evils, and harm is used to mean bringing evils and preventing benefits."

 

 

In Islamic communities there is a major guaranteed method of seeking advantage and combating corruption, which is the promotion of good (maarouf) and the censure of abominations (munkar). This is an obligation that goes beyond mere education and information availability and involves checking that the information is actually put to practical use.

 

 

Every Muslim who knows, for example, that smoking is injurious to health and knows the harmful effects it produces regards it as his duty to inform others about it and make every other member of his community aware of the dangers of smoking. But things do not stop at that. He even considers it his duty when he sees someone smoking to ask him, in a gentle manner, to stop because smoking is harmful to the smoker. He also points out to him that if it is permissible for a person to harm himself, which it is not, it is a greater sin to cause harm to others. The Prophet (pbuh) forbade causing harm to individuals and to the community, as he said: "There shall be no infliction of harm on oneself or others". He also forbade any injury to one's neighbour, any neighbour, whether in residence, public transport, public places, or offices. He said:

 

 

"Whoever believes in God and the Day of Judgement should not hurt his neighbour".

 

 

The same attitude is adopted by every responsible Muslim towards a person who pours the waste of his factory into waters that are for common use or into other areas of the common environment, or indeed towards any person who contributes in any way to the pollution of the environment. Enjoining what is right and good and forbidding what is wrong and evil, which is a fundamental principle of Islam, ensures the vigilance of every member of an Islamic community to make sure that the law is enforced, the common interest is guarded, and every source of corruption is blocked. Islam makes the protection of the environment and censure of its corruption a duty of the righteous society. God says, Why were there not among the generations before you some upright men preaching against corruption on earth? ( 11: 116)

 

 

I have already referred to the great similarity between a health balance and an environmental balance. I want now to speak about another similarity related to the protection stage. Health promotion is the basic stage in protecting human health, or let us say, it is primary prevention. It is the first and the most important thing to do. To protect people from falling victim to a disease is to spare them much suffering, and to spare their tissues and organs much damage and undesirable consequences. Furthermore it saves society a heavy bill.

 

 

All measures that aim to ensure the early detection of any ailment and the immediate intervention to check it fall under secondary prevention. There is also tertiary prevention, which includes the procedures followed to minimize the consequences of handicaps and disabilities should they occur, to reduce the suffering resulting from any incurable ailment, and to improve a patient's ability to adjust to living with such incurable impairment. All this is classified as rehabilitation. It is quite interesting that what we have mentioned concerning health is applicable to the environment to a great extent. Primary environmental protection is achieved by improving the health balance of the environment, which would reset the scale to its well balanced position. This is what I talked about at length, pointing out the role played by religion and religious communities. This is the kind of protection where the result is guaranteed and the expenses are minimal.

 

 

Secondary protection of the environment is through the early detection of any imbalance and immediate intervention to check it. For this reason, scientists have invented many monitoring and surveillance devices for every element of the environment, at the domestic, national, regional and global levels, in order to discover anything that might upset the balance either way. They have also made various plans to rectify the disorder, and to do so as early as possible. Some of these plans are complex, while others are as simple as the one described by Ibn Sina, who said:

 

 

The alteration in water may bring more diseases to a traveller than the alteration of food. This is something that should be taken into consideration, and precautions in regards to water should be made. Among the methods of precaution are allowing the water plenty of time to settle and filtering it ': several times through pots of porous clay. Boiling the water may purify it and may separate pure water from other elements mixed with it. The best method is distilling it by sublimation.

 

 

 

There is in addition room for tertiary protection, which means rehabilitation.

 

It would take a long time to talk about the last two ways of protection, and the right place for such a discourse is forums that are highly specialized in every type of pollution.

But the most effective and least expensive protection is the primary: the promotion, protection and maintenance of the environmental health balance, which I hope to have managed to draw attention to in this discourse.

It is God Who says the truth and Who guides to the right path.

 






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