Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 4:10 PM
BURDEN OF DISEASE: EARTH MATERIALS AS NATURALLY OCCURRING TOXICANTS. WHAT COST TO OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS?
Despite its potential to inform, earth science knowledge currently has limited influence on public health protection policies and initiatives. In both Canada and the USA, diverse geological terrains of large areal extent (1000's of Km2) and their overlying environmental media are known to be naturally enriched in toxicants at levels having a potential to pose public health risks. Such occurrences (inorganic arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury, fluoride, uranium ) may be associated with morbidity risks (carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic diseases) exceeding "pack-a-day" smoking habits. In their potential exposure to naturally contaminated soils and groundwaters, most at risk may be young children and pregnant mothers. For naturally occurring arsenic we present a geoscience-based hazard potential model as an example of how earth sciences can support health risk assessment and risk management. Further, in a "back of the envelope" calculation we estimate the human burdens of disease that may originate in unchecked exposures to naturally occurring toxicants - and the costs to our health care systems.
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