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Healthy Gable Vents:

Keeping your home healthy and happy can be as easy as allowing it to breathe properly.  Attics breath in from cornice vents and out through gable vents just as a human breathes through a nose.  But a better comparison might be the way a dog breathes. Dogs cannot sweat so they hassle or breath heavily to expel their excess heat as does your home's attic.  Without this exhaust outlet, the attic will over heat and the house will try to sweat.  But as houses have issues with expelling heat in other ways, the studs and wall coverings will over expand causing damage to the wall structures.  Also the roof will cook from underneath as well as it does on top.  This drastically reduces the life of the roof.

Does a gable vent play a part on a human homeowner's health?  Yes it does.
Wood gable vents have a tendency to rot and soon not allow proper ventilation.  Also to allow 4 legged critters to enter and nest in the unattended gable space.  This invites pests and even disease into your home.
Galvanized gable vents are prone to rusting and louvers falling out.
Vinyl gable vents emit an odor when they over heat and tend to warp over time.  The odor produced by these is actually harmful to humans if inhaled for prolonged periods.  These odors can actually enter a home's living space form the heating and air system.  
Aluminum gable vents have no harmful emissions, do not rust or rot and are less likely to invite squirrels, raccoons and roof rats.

Environmental Impact of Gable Vents:
Did you realize that most old gable vents end up in the landfill once they are replaced and discarded? 
Good news is most wooden gable vents will be deteriorated and dissolved quickly.  The only environmental impact is from the paint left behind. 
Bad news is galvanized gable vents also end up in the trash rusting until they are finally gone, but they still leave their mark with metal contaminating the ground and ground water.
Worse news is that vinyl and polyurethane gable vents will be in the ground for years leaking their vinyl chemicals into the ground and ground water.
But the best news of all pertains to the aluminum gable vent.  It will most likely be recycled if it ever needs replacing.  The aluminum gable vent is the least of all gable vents to have an environmental impact except for in a good way.