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For decades, geologists focused on the planet's rocks, minerals and physical processes such as the formation of deserts. Then, 15 years ago, a new field of geology emerged, with big implications for the developing world.

Medical geology explores the connection between human and animal health and the rocks and minerals of our planet, writes Chandra Dissanayake in this article in Science. The central idea is that the geology of a given environment directly influences the chemical make-up — and health — of the life within it.

In the developing world, where rural people often live in intimate contact with the physical environment, medical geology provides a new way of understanding and solving health problems.

For instance, people living on impoverished soils may lack essential trace minerals, triggering a variety of diseases.  On the other hand, too much of other chemicals — such as arsenic and fluoride — can also cause serious illnesses.

For both the geological and medical communities, the multidisciplinary nature of investigating these health threats could herald interesting collaborations ahead, says Dissanayake.

Link to full article in Science