Center for Asbestos Safety

The Environment and Illness

The environment can also be responsible for illnesses in both children and adults.

A study analyzed the role of environmental pollutants in the prevalence, incidence, fatalities, and costs of pediatric disease amongst American children via the examination of asthma, neurobehavioral disorders, lead poisoning and cancer. The authors of the study created a model that provided an approximation of the environmentally attributable fraction to be 100 percent in case of lead poisoning; 30 percent in case of asthma (range 10 to 35 percent); 5 percent in case of cancer (range 2 to 10 percent); 10 percent in case of neurobehavioral disorders (range 5 to 20 percent). The estimated yearly costs were approximately $54.9 billion. The conclusion derived by the authors was that the high health care costs related to environmental pollution were significant enough to necessitate more funding for research on pollution and its prevention.

Air pollution has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates, especially in case of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. It also affects lung development amongst children and may cause decreased lung function linked with increased carbon in the airway macrophages of children. Harmful exposures that occur at home, for instance, dust mites and cockroaches, along with work exposures seem to have resulted in the increased incidence and mortality of asthma amongst both children and adults. In developed countries, occupational asthma is the most prevalent occupational lung disease.

On a broader scale, pollution has been associated with the accumulation of carbon dioxide, resulting in global warming, changes in the world climate, and a variety of adverse human health outcomes. Ecological and climatic changes have been associated with the emergence and reemergence of communicable diseases.

Discharge of chlorofluorocarbon gases that are used in refrigerators damages the protective ozone layer present in the stratosphere, thereby resulting in increased ultraviolet radiation which can lead to skin cancers such as melanoma.

Focus has also been on the potential role of the built environment (for instance, homes, streets, buildings, infrastructure) in creating adverse effects, for example, asthma, lead poisoning, road traffic accidents and obesity. These conditions have a disproportionate effect on people of color and poor people.

Center for Asbestos
Safety in the Workplace