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07/13/11
What are we being exposed to?
Filed under: Healthcare, Occupational Health and Safety, The Environment
Posted by: Tom @ 2:18 pm

When I wake up in the morning feeling congested, I turn on the Weather Channel.  As the Air Quality Report shows Unhealthy for Certain Groups, I think about growing up in a polluted Pittsburgh where the sun shone as an orange disk through the smog.  Later I saw a power plant in Ohio with a stack so tall that the company bragged that pollutants would never reach the ground.  Years later, I heard a that dust-borne bacteria from the Sahara Desert was killing coral in the Caribbean, and an aunt of mine complained that each time she took a cruise to Alaska there was less and less beautiful ice.  Forty years ago, I even heard about receding ice when I visited a glacier in the Canadian Rockies.  I also remember once when the smell of forest fires in Colorado was noticeable in the Northeast.  A lot has been learned about pollution since then.  Considerable progress has been made.  It is especially noticeable in Pittsburgh, but there is still much to be done in many other parts of the world.

I started my career at a steel mill with smoke and gases spewing everywhere and later spent time in factories all over the country that used dangerous chemicals.  I think about workers who have died from exposure to asbestos and coal dust including those involved in the cleanup of the World Trade Center site in New York after the 9-11-2001 terror attacks.  I remember the controversy about acid rain traveling to New Jersey from Ohio and dust coming to the Caribbean from the Sahara.  Now the talk is about mercury from China raining down on the waters off the coast of the Western United States and tainting wild fish caught in the sea.  Reports show more widespread damage as researchers keep looking for it farther and farther from the sources.  Measures like tall stacks may help to prevent high localized concentrations of pollutants, but cannot keep up with the broad, longterm impacts.

No doubt these poisons are building up in our bodies.  Certainly does not sound pleasant or reassuring, does it?  Especially when no one really knows precisely what concentrations are hazardous to our health!

The question is, “What can we do about it?”  Or, would it be better not to know so much?  One thing is certain.  This is an important subject for Outcome Improvement.  Please watch for more commentary on it.

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