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On a clear day - if there is one - you can see forever.

Environmental pollution is the watchword of the day. One medical professional group, the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, is embarking on a national environmental education program in hope of doing something about the problem.

The focus is on how pollutants affect health. The program will deal with the relationship between air pollution and diseases of the upper aerodigestive tract (nose, throat, sinuses, larynx, and lungs). The program will also study the effect of noise pollution on hearing loss, as well as the role of a depleted ozone layer on head and neck skin cancer.

Academy members are encouraged to help their patients identify and understand medical problems in the head and neck region that are caused or aggravated by environmental pollutants in the community, including the work place. Personal and public policy actions to deal with environmental problems will increase only in proportion to awareness of such problems.

The Academy's executive vice president, Dr. Jerome C. Goldstein, says, "We have a special responsibility to be aware of the rapid environmental deterioration. In doing so, l believe we may be the first medical specialty to create a broad educational program to improve the quality of the environment."

The adverse effects of air pollution range from postnasal drip, shortness of breath and chronic cough, to cancer. Also, the hearing loss of approximately 10 million Americans is at least partially attributable to noise pollution.

Ozone, the colorless, pungent gas in smog, is thought to be responsible for the allergic symptoms experienced by as much as 20 percent of our population. It is formed at ground level when motor vehicle and industrial emissions react with sunlight. (This pollutant is different from the ozone in the upper atmosphere, which is formed naturally and shields the earth from harmful solar ultraviolet radiation.)

Ozone levels peak in the late afternoon, and the longer daylight hours of summer tend to increase the problem for allergic individuals. Such persons should limit the time spent outdoors to morning and evening hours.

Because many of pollution's health effects are cumulative, senior citizens are especially at risk. For this reason, the Academy is also working with the Senior Environment Corps, a new nonprofit organization designed to train teams of seniors as advocates on environmental issues related to health.
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Title Annotation:health effects of pollution
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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