Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People

By Barry S. Levy; Victor W. Sidel | Go to book overview

16
Protecting food, water, and ambient air

CRAIG W. HEDBERG, JEFFREY B. BENDER, AND DONALD VESLEY

Protecting food, water, and the ambient air are primary functions of the public health system. These functions are important in preventing terrorist acts and in minimizing the health consequences of terrorist acts that do occur. This chapter focuses on many aspects of this broad subject.


PROGRESS DURING THE 20TH CENTURY

During the first half of the 20th century, environmental health measures in the United States substantially reduced the spread of infectious agents through food and water, contributing to greatly reduced rates of death and markedly increased life expectancy—from approximately 47 years in 1900 to approximately 76 years in 2000.1Measures such as the provision of sanitary sewage disposal, chlorination and filtration of drinking water, pasteurization of milk, and refrigeration of perishable food helped control typhoid fever, tuberculosis, botulism, scarlet fever, and many other infectious diseases.2

So successful were these measures that during the second half of the 20th century the safety of food and water in the United States was largely taken for granted by the general public and policy-makers. New infectious disease threats emerged during this period, however. For example, in 1976, Legion305

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