Twenty years since the passage of the Clean Air Act under President Richard Nixon in 1970, health benefits begin to manifest, Sykes said.
In 1990, when the Act was re-authorized by President George H.W. Bush, clean air programs were found to prevent 205,000 premature deaths, 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, 21,000 cases of heart disease, 843,000 asthma attacks, 189,000 heart disease hospitalizations and the loss of 10.4 million I.Q. points in children from lead exposure reductions.
“Anyone born before 1970 still has lead in their metabolism, [especially with] lead in gas [and paint],” Sykes said. “Before 1978, [people who made] renovations in [their] home [took] precautions [to prevent] kicking up stuff.”
In 2010, she said, programs meant to address fine particle pollution, also known as soot, and ozone, once again also known as smog, were implemented since the 1990 amendments under President Bush and have prevented 160,000 more premature deaths. Research on the decades-old impact of the Clean Air Act can be found at the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/40th/achieve.html.
Additionally, the Aspen Institute cited its top ten ways that EPA improved the quality of air in the country over the past 40 years. The institute attributed improvements to removing lead from gasoline and the air, eliminating acid from rain, clearing the atmosphere of secondhand smoke and making for vehicle efficiency and emissions control. Its literature on the subject can be found on its website at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/events/EPA_40_Brochure.pdf.
As part of a larger effort to encourage more seniors to live more holistically, Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, science director of science and environment of the Collaborative on Health and Environment, said an array of different government, business and nonprofit initiatives and devices exist that indirectly enable senior citizens to lead healthy, independent lives by protecting the environment.
“[The Philips Lifeline with] Auto Alert [system was created to track and resolve senior] falls at home,” Schettler said. “[These devices are] truly precious gifts. [They give seniors the] freedom to stay alive and independent. [They give them] freedom from isolation.”
He added that the Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 and the Agricultural Act of 2014, is helpful in setting policies and practices about foods eaten by low-to-moderate-income individuals, including seniors on fixed incomes, healthy foods, the success or failure of agriculture and the manner in which food is produced, packaged, shipped, stored and consumed.
“Animal studies [find chemicals in the food cause breast and prostate cancer],” Schettler said, mentioning such government initiatives at work with senior centers to sanitize poultry for health and safety prior to preparation and consumption and the discovery of substitutes for cancer-prone foods.
“It is possible to see [how] prostate and breast cancer are caused [by] toxic foods. With the long latency of [cancer development], it is hard to tell [the cause and nature immediately] as opposed to [that] of infections.”
He compared such fledging programs in the United States to more fully-developed ones in Europe.
“[The] EU gets it,” Schettler said. “We [the United States] are in the old days. I want you to support [these initiatives]. If they [elected officials and policymakers] don’t hear from us [environmental and senior health advocates], they will put it on the back[burner] tomorrow. We ought to do something.”
This article was originally published Feb. 18, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.