National Association Of Physicians


Embargoed for release until November 24, 1997
John Grupenhoff, Ph.D.
Ted Y. Mashima, D.V.M.
Tel: (301) 571-9791

Air Pollution Can Affect Many Body Organs and Systems Multi-Media Program Will Educate Physicians and the Public

Washington, D.C., November 24, 1997 — Air pollution is a serious public health problem that can affect many organs and systems of the human body, including the heart, blood and skin, and the central nervous, immune, muscular and skeletal systems, according to a unique new multi-media education program released today by the National Association of Physicians for the Environment (NAPE).

“When people think of air pollution, most think of the lungs. That is important, of course, but it is vital to understand that air pollution can affect many organs and systems of the body,” said Peyton E. Weary, M.D., President of NAPE.

“This is a first-of-its-kind program. We will use it to educate a corps of physicians and their healthcare colleagues across the country and ask them to help educate the people in their communities. Our goal is to increase public awareness about the potential risks posed by air pollution and the importance of preventing air pollution in the first place,” said Weary.

The multi-media education program consists of four parts: a slide show on the Internet, a slide show on CD-ROM, a slide show on diskette and a traditional slide show with teaching text.

NAPE Founding President, Jerome C. Goldstein, M.D., said “Medical science is only just beginning to understand the complex effects of air pollution on the human body. The NAPE program is a badly needed link between resea rch and physician/public education on essential environmental health issues.

“The value of this program is that it was developed from a meeting which brought together a superb faculty of expert medical specialists, among others, who are leaders in their fields and have extensive research training and clinical experience. It is based on solid scientific information. We now can move forward to share it with physicians and the general public in a comprehensive air pollution prevention campaign.”
In addition to its focus on specific organs and systems, the NAPE program also looks at the effects of air pollution on special populations, including women, children, seniors and minorities.

“Children may be more vulnerable to airborne pollution because their airways are narrower than those of adults. Irritation caused by air pollution that would produce only a slight response in an adult can result in potentially significant obstruction in a young child’s airways,” said Goldstein.
Byron J. Bailey, M.D., President-Elect of NAPE, commented, “Looking at the evidence presented in this program, there can be no question about the far-reaching impact of air pollution. As an otolaryngologist, I know only too well the impacts of air pollution on the nose, sinuses, throat, larynx, and other structures of the head and neck.”

He also noted that the NAPE program includes information on how air pollution affects plants and animals, particularly mammals whose physiological systems are frequently similar to man.

“Human health is inseparable from the health of the natural world,” said Bailey. “Whatever affects the air that people breathe also affects the air of our pets, our livestock and the many wildlife species we value.”

The NAPE program also explores special air pollution concerns, such as those addressed by aerospace medicine.

“To an aerospace medicine specialist, the environment includes not only the air, water and soil of the Earth, but also the cabin milieu of aircraft and space vehicles where crews must work, sleep and, in some cases, live,” said Russell B. Rayman, M.D., NAPE Board Member and Executive Director of the Aerospace Medical Association.

Development of the NAPE education program was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The program is based on information provided by participants in the National Conference on Air Pollution Impacts on Body Organs and Systems held in Washington, DC, on November 18, 1994, and supported by NIEHS.