Playing with Fire: The Pathophysiologic Effects of Pollution


Over the last 50 years there has been a dramatic shift in the health burden of the United States population from infectious diseases to diseases such as cancer, birth defects, and Alzheimer’s, many of which may be associated with environmental exposure. According to the EPA, more than three and a half billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released each year directly into the environment. One to two billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States alone. These chemicals are now ubiquitous in our air, water, food, home and workplaces. A survey released in 2000 by Health-Track, a national public health organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows that Americans believe the government should be monitoring chronic diseases and their links to environmental hazards.

In 2015, environmentally induced diseases were responsible for 9 million premature deaths, that is 16% of all global death. Exposure to contaminated air, water and soil kill more people than war, AIDS, hunger or smoking. No large foundations include environmental health and pollution as focal areas, despite significant health impacts. Funding is sparse when compared to resources for infectious disease and other environmental issues.

Environmental pollution has been associated with respiratory and immune system diseases, development or exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases, impairment of intellectual and motor skill development in children, recurrent infections, development of type 2 diabetes, brain degenerative disorders, the increase of some cancers, and greater all-cause mortality. The health implications of long-term exposure to low levels of these compounds are not well understood by the medical community. Environmental medicine physicians have a superior ability to help their patients reduce the harmful effects of environmental factors, this ability should be shared and underscored in every healthcare practice. Pollution is the world’s largest environmental threat to health. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s goal for this meeting is to provide an inclusive forum for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge about the pathophysiological effects of pollution on your patients. We will educate practitioners to recognize the roles of environmental exposures in many common clinical diseases. We will present new insights based on valid studies and pose clinically effective treatment options, emphasizing practical strategies that can be incorporated into clinical practice. Practitioners who utilize this innovative information in their practices should expect to obtain important background knowledge and more effective treatment outcomes for their patients with these environmentally-linked conditions.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss the effects of toxins on the body.
  • Discuss the mechanisms thought to be related to pollutants and the scope of their contributions to many common chronic diseases
  • Apply up-to-date concepts and modalities to help diagnose those patients with environmentally-induced diseases more effectively in the outpatient settings
  • Implement practical, effective, take home information that offers patients in outpatient settings new options for dealing with environmentally induced diseases.
  • Utilize the wealth of presented information to improve the practice of medicine in other areas as well


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