Chapter 17

If we want more evidence-based practice, we need more practice-based evidence.*

Chapter 17
Control of Atmospheric Pollution

Table of Contents


REFERENCES - since publication of 8th edition



Atmospheric pollution rounds out the final chapter in Part 4, presented last because it does not represent the magnitude of damage to health that it seems, from popular media, to represent. Relative to the factors addressed in previous chapters, air pollution, noise pollution and radioactivity contribute to a small proportion of disease and death. They do, however, represent growing threats to quality of life, conservation of the earth's environment as we have known it, and potentially "the ultimate epidemic." Nuclear power has improved our quality of life, as have most of the industrial sources of air and noise pollution, but nuclear power also has the potential to make the planet uninhabitable. A theme and objective throughout Part 4 is illustrated most poignantly with this chapter and the book: every technological advance brings with it potential threats to health and quality of life that require community action to protect the public.


The epidemiology of the various forms of air pollution is presented to identify the sources of health effects and the evidence of damage. Because the sources tend to effect populations of large geographic regions, across state or provincial and even national boundaries, regulation and control measures must be exercised by federal or national agencies. The major laws and examples of regulations from the United States are presented. The major controversies surrounding air pollution controls and radioactive waste disposal are discussed. The concept of nuclear winter is developed to illustrate some of the principles of atmospheric pollution and to dramatize the threat of the ultimate epidemic represented by nuclear war. 


Chemical Buildup in Bodies Alarming.  (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, April 20, 2003) - Levels of toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in the bodies of people and wildlife worldwide are increasing worldwide.  These chemicals are approaching levels that could cause harm in the developing brains of babies.

Going Green.  (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 12, 2003) - A new handbook published by The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy known as the Green Book, lists vehicles by class and category and assigns each an environmental damage index. 

An International Right to Know.  (The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2003)A new report by a coalition of environmental, human rights, and labor groups argues for the an international right to know.  Although, the U.S. government has already passed a law that requires companies to disclose chemical emissions, this law only applies for the U.S.  The group argues that the global community should be informed of a company's activities.

2003 Cars Decline in Fuel Economy.  WASHINGTON (AP, October 30, 2002) - The 2003 model automobiles have an average fuel economy of 20.8 miles.  Thirty three of the 934 cars, trucks, and vans have annual fuel economy efficiency, says the Environmental Protection Agency.

Electric Fields, Cancer Link Nixed. WASHINGTON (AP, June 15, 1999) – Six years of research have produced little hard evidence that the magnetic fields around electric power lines cause cancer, yet some lingering concerns remain, a National Institutes of Health division reported Tuesday. The report to Congress, however, said there have been some statistical associations between the fields and childhood leukemia as well as chronic lymphocyte leukemia in adults exposed to the fields through their work.  The full National Institute for Environmental Health Science press release and links to related sources for this story are at:

Paris' First No-Smoking Bar Opens. PARIS (Evening Standard, June 8, 1999). - The first bar in Paris to go completely no-smoking has seen its turnover drop by 90% in a week. However, owner Xavier Denamur, himself a smoker, is sticking with the new policy, saying, "I thought it was time for a no-smoking bar. Fair enough, we've lost in the short term, but we intend to build up a new clientele." His business is a bar bookshop and something of an intellectual hang-out.

American Medical Association Press Release: (3 P.M. (CDT), Tuesday, May 25, 1999).  To coincide with the publication in the journal of the American Medical Association. Despite claims by the tobacco industry and its allies that smoke-free restaurant ordinances discourage tourism, a new study shows that cities and states that barred smoking in restaurants experienced no drop in hotel visitors, and in some cases registered increases after the smoke-free laws went into effect. The study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco appears in the May 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association  (1999, v.281: 1911-1918). For the abstract, go to:

Court Blocks Another EPA Smog Rule. WASHINGTON (AP, May 26, 1999) – A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered the EPA to suspend implementation of a rule requiring 22 states to take measures that control interstate movement of smog-causing pollution. The court decision, pending consideration of a lawsuit challenging the rule, is the second blow against a major EPA air pollution regulation in two weeks. The same appeals court turned back the EPA's smog and soot regulation on May 14. The action by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia directs the EPA to stop implementing the regulation, pending consideration of a lawsuit that had challenged the requirements.

"Healthy" Insulation Technology Offers Solution to School Mould Problem. (MISSISSAUGA, ON, May 26 /CNW) - Icynene, an innovative Canadian insulation technology, will be featured as a primary part of the solution to mould in school portables at a Toronto forum on the issue. Independent tests found Icynene made it easier to improve indoor air quality. In tandem with proper ventilation, it is a key to avoiding the growth of mold. School boards across Canada have been wrestling with mould in school portables. In some cases, the mould problem has resulted in students and staff being sent home or relocated. Exposure to spores and gases from moulds have been linked to headaches, respiratory difficulties and other adverse symptoms.   Consumers and health officials interested in more information on indoor air quality can visit on the Internet.

Court Voids EPA Air-Pollution Rules. WASHINGTON (AP, May 14, 1999) – A federal appeals court Friday set aside new air quality standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, handing the Clinton administration a major environmental defeat. The three-judge panel, acting on a lawsuit by a number of industry groups, said the section of the 1990 Clean Air Act on which the EPA relied in issuing the air pollution rules amounted to "an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power." The EPA is almost certain to appeal the case, although the agency had no immediate comment. The decision was a major victory for a broad range of industry groups from trucking companies to electric utilities, which had fought the tougher air quality rules as too expensive. The regulations, issued in July 1997, imposed much tougher health standards for smog-causing ozone and opened the way for the first time for regulation of microscopic soot.

EPA to Demand Cleaner Vehicles. WASHINGTON (AP, Feb. 18, 1999) - Hoping to dramatically cut air pollution in the next decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose tough new requirements for cleaner cars and gasoline, including a dramatic reduction in pollution from popular sport utility vehicles. The draft proposal could be sent to the White House for review as early as Friday, according to government sources. The proposed regulations, which would go into effect in 2004, have been the subject of intense lobbying by both the auto and oil industries and could shape the kind of cars Americans will drive over the next 20 years. For the first time, automakers would be required to make popular sport utility vehicles, which now account for nearly half of the market, as pollution free as passenger cars.

China Promises Better Environment. BEIJING (AP, Feb. 8, 1999) - Beijing will fight smog by scrapping old cars and tearing down ramshackle housing mainly rented to migrant workers, top city officials said Monday. Vice Mayor Wang Taoguang said the Chinese capital, one of the world's smoggiest cities, does not plan to limit the number of cars on its roads. But authorities will strictly enforce laws requiring cars that do not meet new emissions standards to be scrapped. Levels of some types of air pollution have begun to drop as a result of environmental regulations adopted by the city last fall, Wang said without providing details.

NASA Estimates Greenhouse Gases From Cigarette Fires. The 10% of forest fires that are caused by smoking generate more sidestream smoke (more smoldering biomass) than are generated directly by cigarettes. For example, one huge 1987 Siberian forest fire complex, parts of which were started by cigarettes, released 40,000,000 metric tons of carbon monoxide alone or 8,000 times as much carbon monoxide as the 5,000 tons of pollutants in total/year directly from Canadian sidestream cigarette smoke. The fire released 5x10 exp 8 metric tons of carbon dioxide (C02), 4 x 10 exp 7 metric tons of carbon monoxide (CO), 2 x 10 exp 6 metric tons of methane (CH4), and 1.5 x 10 exp 9 kg of nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHC)).

CDC Issues Guidelines on Prevention and Response to Bioterrorism. ATLANTA (MMWR, Feb. 5, 1999, vol. 48, No.4).

Foul Air Brings Call For Car Curbs. (Vancouver Sun May 1, 1998). A pollution alert is announced for the city after stagnant air begins to post health risks. The bad air presents a risk to people with heart or lung problems.

Secondhand Smoke Case May Kindle New Suits. (Wall Street Journal October 13, 1997) Secondhand smoke case is settled out of court for $300 million going to research.

Falls Ozone Coat is Again Threadbare. ( New York Times October 12, 1997).The ozone hole over the South Pole is back and as big as ever!

A Truce in War Over Climate Change. (International Herald Tribune December 13, 1997). Kyoto, Japan--159 countries agree on new limits of emissions but US delays ratification.

Ozone Layer Improves Slowly. (Globe and Mail May 1996) The atmosphere has less ozone destructive substances than it did last year. International efforts are believed to be responsible for the improvements.


For related news stories, please click here. 


Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights
2530 San Pablo, Suite J
Berkeley, CA 94702
Phone: (510) 841-3032

This advocacy group publishes a newsletter, ANR Update, reporting on legislative and regulatory initiatives to protect nonsmokers from passive smoke in public places.

Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, SW, Room PM-211B
Washington, DC 20460
Phone: (202) 382-7550

Publishes a wide selection of general publications on the Agency's programs and activities. Publications: A Quarterly Guide (catalog), annual with quarterly supplements on air pollution, noise, toxic substances.

CRM/McGraw-Hill Films
110 Fifteenth Street
Del Mar, CA 92014-9988
Phone: (714) 453-5000

Rental film, "Death be not Loud, examines problem of noise pollution and its effects--psychological stress, high blood pressure and deafness –and steps that can be taken to combat this menace.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Public Document Room
1717 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20555
Phone: (202) 634-3274; (800) 638-8081

Nuclear information inquiries will not be accepted by phone. The toll free number provides assistance with questions about retrieval of information. Other information aids include: Citizen Guide to USNRC Information, PDR User's Guide and PDR File Classification System.

Modern Talking Picture Service
500 Park Street, North
St. Petersburg, FL 33709
Phone: (800) 237-4599

Provides college level free-loan films like: "Nuclear Waste Isolation: A Progress Report." Efforts to find a safe disposal system for highly radioactive waste. Free discussion materials avail-able with this U.S. Dept. of Energy film.

The National Arbor Day Foundation
100 Arbor Avenue
Nebraska City, NE 68410

"Tree City USA" and "Rain Forest Rescue" are two public education and community mobilization programs of this public service organization.

Public Education and Risk Communication Division
Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute, UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, TR 2 –675
Hoes Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854-5635

Publishes and distributes free INFOsheets. One is on Indoor Air Pollution. Request list of others.



Toxic Emissions From Cigarettes

These calculations were made possible because of new regulations by the government of British Columbia which forced tobacco companies to test and report emissions from the leading Canadian cigarette brands.

Second-Hand Smoke Exposure .

A web site with more than a hundred links on issues of  and the papers presented at the European Union conference on second-hand smoke, held in Rotterdam in May 1999 can be found.



Book Review

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.

The UCS is a national nonprofit organization of scientists and citizens working together for a healthy environment ( ). Their new book helps people set personal environmental priorities. By focusing on a relatively few especially damaging aspects of their consumption, North Americans can reduce overall environmental damage dramatically. UCS believes that this more targeted strategy will be more effective and appeal to a wider segment of the population.
The most important conclusion of the research was that, of the 50 broad consumer spending categories identified, only 7 are responsible for the vast majority of consumer-related environmental harm. The "dirty seven" include: 1) Cars and light trucks; 2) Meat and poultry; 3) Fruits, vegetables, grains; 4) Household appliances and lighting; 5) Home heating, hot water, and air conditioning; 6) Home construction; and 7) Household water and sewage; Changes in these 7 areas will produce the most marked environmental improvement.

The researchers suggest 11 priority actions to address these areas: 1) Live where you reduce your need to drive; 2) Avoid buying an additional car; 3) Choose fuel-efficient, low-polluting cars; 4) Set concrete goals for reducing car travel; 5) Walk, bike, ride public transit; 6) Eat less meat; 7) Buy certified organic foods; 8) Choose your home carefully; 9) Target heating and hot water;10)Install efficient lighting and appliances; and11) choose an electric provider that sells renewable, or "green" electricity. The book is available at:Union of Concerned Scientists, Two Brattle Square, PO Box 9105, Cambridge, MA 02238-9105, or call (617) 547-5552.


1. Global deforestation. Consider the tradeoffs between replanting trees in an urban area that has a limited water table and depends on groundwater and the global issue of lost trees contributing to the greenhouse effect. What are the implications for your community?

2. A volcanic winter. Universal Press Syndicate presents the column Earthweek: A diary of the planet in many local newspapers. If available in your community, explore contemporary volcanic activity and other natural events effecting the atmosphere.

3. A nuclear winter. Although the Cold War has ended, the continuing existence of nuclear arsenals and the black marketing of former Soviet secrets to Third World and terrorist groups keep the threat of a nuclear holocaust and a nuclear winter alive. Review one of the following films: "The Day After" or "The China Syndrome." These two provocative films suggest cataclysmic environmental problems that are entirely man-made. Reflect on Hollywood's treatment of environmental issues with real-life events, e.g., "The China Syndrome" vs "Chernobyl" or "Three Mile Island."

4. Occupational health. View the video of "Silkwood." Write a reaction on the outcome of this case from an occupational and safety perspective.

5. Tracking air quality. The weather section of most local newspapers carries an "Air quality" section that reports readings of the air quality index for various parts of the local region. Find this section in the paper and track the information, e.g. for the duration of the course or for selected periods (including all seasons) of the past year. How has the air quality changed over time? What do the numbers mean? What are the implications for the public? Figure 17-6 should be helpful for this exercise. 

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