International Conference on Environmental and Occupational Lung Diseases

By Rahman, Qamar; Nettesheim, Paul et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2001 | Go to article overview

International Conference on Environmental and Occupational Lung Diseases


Rahman, Qamar, Nettesheim, Paul, Smith, Kirk R., Seth, Prahlad K., Selkirk, James, Environmental Health Perspectives


Poverty and lack of development are critical contributing factors to environmental hazards that affect the health of many hundreds of millions of people worldwide, particularly at the household level. Too often in too much of the world, however, the industrial and commercial development that helps reduce poverty has resulted in ambient environmental degradation and threats to human health as well. Workplace hazards are all too common everywhere. There is therefore a double need for research and action: a) to reduce the environmental health hazards of poverty and, b) to guide economic development in ways that produce healthy environments for the public and workers as well as economic well-being. Health is not only a goal in its own right but also a prerequisite to sustainable economic development.

Although other important diseases have significant environmental determinants, including malaria and diarrhea, the burden of respiratory diseases is large on a global basis and is a strong function of environmental conditions in all countries. Polluted air in the home, workplace, or ambient environment is responsible for serious health effects in both developed and developing countries. It varies from country to country depending on geography, climate, industrial patterns, cultural factors, fuel use, and government policy, for example. In addition, actual individual exposure to air pollutants may vary greatly depending on the location and activity of the individual. In addition to exposure patterns and the character of the pollutants, health impacts themselves depend further on age distribution, nutritional status, preexposure to other chemicals, background disease rates, genetic factors, and other population characteristics. In all, however, the absolute health impact of pollution is substantially greater in the developing world, although there are important variations by pollutant categories.

Given the worldwide importance of environmental and occupational respiratory disease at all levels of development, it is valuable to provide a global venue for sharing information among scientists and policy makers concerned with these environmental health concerns.

Conference Objectives

An international conference to address these issues was hosted by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC) 29 October-2 November 2000 in Lucknow, India. It was convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA); the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Institute for Global Health, University of California; the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of California; the World Health Organization (WHO); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the World Bank; the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; and ITRC. About 175 participants from 27 countries attended.

The purpose of the conference was to bring together experts in the field of environmental and occupational respiratory diseases to focus attention on major health problems that affect millions of people around the globe and to stimulate research and development of appropriate public health responses in a fresh perspective. Accordingly, the conference was organized to facilitate sharing of information across four important spectra dealing with the problem.

Countries at different levels of development. Many hazards that have been encountered and dealt with in developed countries in the past are of vital concern to developing countries today. In addition, developed countries can still benefit from studies on pollutants of concern performed in relatively high-exposure settings in developing countries.

Household, workplace, and ambient exposure settings. In particular, results from studies of the high exposures traditionally found in workplaces are useful in the efforts to understand and control exposures elsewhere, which tend to be smaller for each individual but involve larger populations. …

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