McMaster University

McMaster University


Environment & Health

Calendar Description

3 unit(s)
An exploration of environmental health issues research. Emphasis is placed on the distribution and effects of environmental toxins and disease-causing micro-organisms. Topics include cancer clusters, food safety, and water-borne diseases.
Two lectures, one seminar (one hour); one term
Prerequisite(s): One of EARTH SC 2EI3, ENVIR SC 2EI3, GEOG 2EI3, 2HI3; and registration in Level IV or above. GEOG 3HH3 is strongly recommended.
Cross-list(s):: ENVIR SC 4HH3, GEOG 4HH3, HLTH AGE 4M03


Time/Term Offered: Term Two, Winter, 2014-15

Instructor: Keith Wheaton
Room: General Science Building Rm. 305
Tel:(905) 525.9140 x26334
Office hours: Tues & Thurs 9:30-10:30 AM (after class) or by arrangement on those mornings.

Teaching Assistant:

Course Outline Avenue to Learn


This course will explore the ethical, legal and social issues associated with the distribution of pathogens, toxic pollutants and carcinogenic agents in the environment as they relate to human health. Each week a case-study on a single pertinent biological or toxic agent will be studied with respect to its health impact and how this guides social policy. This will include a specific regional or global assessment of the distribution of the hazardous agent in the environment and how this impacts the population. Each case study will serve as an example of an ongoing or emerging issue in environmental human health. This will lead to discussion, analysis and reflection about stewardship, risk assessment, legality, government policy, ethics, effective communication and resource management for each public health hazard. An assessment of how local authorities manage each situation will highlight how science is used or misused to influence public health policy.

Weekly seminars (Fridays) will focus on techniques and the critical appraisal of the data related to the week's studies and how this can be used for risk assessment. Seminars later in the course will be used for group presentations. Teaching slides will be posted before each lecture on Avenue to Learn. Lecture capture will record all classes.

Topics in the course will be divided into 3 broad categories; each week focusing on a particular issue in environmental human health and public health policy.

Course Objectives:
During the course of study, students are expected to:

  • Understand the sources and impact of environmental risks on humans
  • Evaluate the social, ethical and legal consequences of an environmental health issues
  • Critically examine the science that determines public policy and individual decisions about how we interact with our environment
  • Perform risk assessments of existing or emerging human health issues that have a regional or global impact in order to educate the general public.


Time: Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8:30 – 9:20 AM
Location: Burke Science Building 137

Required Text Books/Course materials:

Specific readings for each week such as research articles or case studies will be posted on Avenue to Learn or provided through links to McMaster Library. These will act as the primary source of study material in the class besides lecture slides. The textbook for this course contains useful and pertinent information that can assist students by deepening their understanding of the lectures and seminars.

Environmental Health: From Global to Local, 2nd Edition: Howard Frumkin (Editor) ISBN: 978-0-470-40487-4, January 2010, Jossey-Bass


The final grade for the course will be based on the following items weighted as indicated:
Midterm exam 1 20%
Midterm exam 2 20%
Final exam 25%
Group presentation/Health Assessment 35%


Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  • Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.

  • Improper collaboration in group work.

  • Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.



Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0