Study Links 200 or More Diseases to Pollution

Doctors from the University of California and the Boston Medical Center have released findings linking common chemical pollutants to at least 200 different human diseases. The study, which compiled data from hundreds of previous studies, shows strong correlations between various common pollutants and a wide range of diseases, including asthma, testicular atrophy, cerebral palsy, kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, dermatitis bronchitis, hyperactivity, deafness, sperm damage and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Pollutants also were linked to 37 different types of cancers.

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“The human body is in constant conversation with this chemical milieu and some substances have turned out to be important contributors to disease,” says study co-author Ted Schletter of the Boston Medical Center. He points out, though, that pollution usually acts as a trigger on a person’s genetic predisposition to developing a particular disease, and not usually as the cause of the disease itself. Blood tests conducted throughout the U.S. and Europe show that the vast majority of residents of industrialized nations are carrying several of these pollutants—such as mercury, dioxin, and PCBs—in their bloodstreams at any given time, making exposure virtually unavoidable.

Health and environmental activists believe the study’s findings warrant the release of information by manufacturers on the potential risks associated with use of their products. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is working hard to prevent such mandatory information disclosure, which it argues would have economic impacts.