US study links more than 200 diseases to pollution

Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2004 02:53 am
US study links more than 200 diseases to pollution
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
14 November 2004

Pollution has been linked to about 200 different diseases, ranging from cerebral palsy to testicular atrophy, as well as more than 37 kinds of cancer, startling US research shows.

The study, which the authors say probably underestimates the full toll of the contamination, will focus attention on the need for information on the tens of thousands of chemicals routinely released into the environment.

But Britain has weakened the proposed European Union regulations to provide safety information on the substances at the behest of the US government.

The research, by doctors at what was then the University of California and at the Boston Medical Center, was restricted to listing only effects that had been found by several different studies and which are often well known.

More than 120 diseases have been definitively linked to pollution, and in another 33 evidence of a link is judged to be "good". For the rest the evidence is "limited".

Nine different pollutants have been "verified" to cause asthma - including four from car exhausts, the subject of an Independent on Sunday campaign - the study shows. Testicular atrophy is caused by oestrogen, increasingly found in British rivers that supply drinking water. Mercury poisoning can cause cerebral palsy, while more than 50 pollutants - ranging from dioxins to PCBs - have been shown to cause cancer.

Other effects include: kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, dermatitis bronchitis, hyperactivity, deafness, sperm damage and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

One of the authors, Dr Ted Schletter of the Boston Medical Center, said yesterday: "The human body is in constant conversation with this chemical milieu and some substances have turned out to be important contributors to disease." He said pollution often acted in concert with genetic predispositions to developing particular illnesses.

Dr J Peterson Myers, chief executive of the Virginia-based Environmental Health Sciences, said because science continued to find new effects of pollution, the number of diseases linked to it was "very much higher".

At the last count - more than 20 years ago - more than 100,000 chemicals were in use in Europe. Few have been properly tested.

Blood tests in the UK, the rest of Europe and the US indicate that most people carry potentially hazardous chemicals in their bodies.

The European Commission has been trying to introduce a new directive requiring industry to provide safety information on the 30,000 most common chemicals, but this measure has been watered down because of pressure from the Bush administration.

A leaked cable signed by Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, complains that the measures "would be significantly more burdensome to industry and government" and would "impact" on US exports to Europe. Tony Blair, President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany wrote a joint letter to the Commission and succeeded in weakeningthe measure.
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Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2004 03:19 am
And despite all this, the average life expectancy continues to increase.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2004 03:34 am
Which is a weak comfort for those, who got diseases.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 02:52 am
1. Average life expectancy increases because many diseases that were fatal for children are either eradicated or controlled in developed world.

2. Also, modern medicine can keep fatally ill people alive much longer then it was case 50 years ago.

3. Still, there is no doubt that 50 (and probably even less) years ago, percentage of completely healthy 50-year olds was much much higher then today. And to be honest, I would rather live 50 healthy years, then to live 80 years and having all kinds of problems for 40 of those.
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Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 03:00 am
and in addition - life expectancy is increased when you consider time person is born, and probably from 5th birthday (and those are ages they usually consider in such statistics). I really doubt life expectancy of 50 or 60 year old is higher now. Actually, I am sure it's not.
And of course life expectancy when you are born is higher when 50 years ago millions and millions of kids were dying because of diseases like measles, polio, pneumonia, scarlatina, meningitis, and many others....

Considering development of medicine, even such "when you are born" life expectancy increase is irelevant and poor.
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Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 01:50 pm
Length of life may increase, but ask the primary caregiver of someone with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or chronic heart disease or terminal cancer what he/she thinks.

Talk to the parents of babies with defects caused by pollution.
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Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 06:04 pm
Good points. That life expectancy arguement is fallable, but still holds a little weight. However, I dont see any viable solution to pollution that wouldnt result in more pressing economic problems. As technology progresses we will develop more ways to scrub pollutants from the environment , but to institute strict pollution controls on U.S. businesses is not a wise solution. People already complain enough about the prices of goods. Its gonna take a collective shift in lifestyle to bring about these changes, and it will be costly. Americans are spoiled.

Besides, were making progress. Todays pollution is nowhere near that of the industrial revolution. There are more and more of these little hybrid cars and natural gas vehicles are catching on. Microbes are being developed that feed on pollution. Agricultural pollution is hard to regulate short of banning fertilizer and insecticides. Mining regulations beed to be kept at a minimum to ensure that U.S. companies remain competitve with foreign ones. Jobs will be lost to these proposed environmental regulations.

If there was a viable solution to this problem, one that wouldnt hinder our technological and economical progress, it would have been done a long time ago.
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Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 06:39 pm
Is this news really surprising to anyone? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad a study was done and that Walter alerted us to the article here.
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