The negative effects of pollution on human health are plain to see, said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Stephen Prescott, M.D.
Earth Day began as a teaching tool in 1970 by former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson to raise awareness and concern for the environment and public health.
“Pollution was evident, even if people weren’t paying attention to it,” Prescott said. “The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so bad, it caught on fire in 1969. The skies over major cities were black with smog.”
And though air quality has steadily improved since the Clean Air Act passed in 1970, there are still extreme examples of how pollution negatively impacts health, he said.
“Contaminants in the water, like lead, arsenic and some types of bacteria, can kill us,” Prescott said. “Coal miners got black lung. And we all know how smoke, either first- or second-hand, can instigate asthma and cancer.”
What’s harder to know is how lower levels of pollution affect us, he said. If we know extreme cases can do real harm, then it stands to reason that even as the intensity is decreased, pollutants can still cause us harm.
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