As a follow-up to the first annual report of the Council on Environmental Quality transmitted in 1970, President Nixon released a report titled, “President’s Report of Study and Surveys of the Hazards to Human Health and Safety from Common Environmental Pollution” in 1972. Outlined in the report was a detailed description of how environmental pollutants affect the quality of human life, and the spectrum of biological responses to exposure of pollutants, ranging from a minor burden on one’s immune system, up to adverse health effects like morbidity and mortality. Read the report below:
In 1971, ten to twenty million adults in the United States were affected by respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary emphysema, with over 100,000 people dying annually from their complications. The financial costs were also steep; United States government paid $90 million into the disability pensions fund for those who suffered from these diseases, a figure second only to those compensated for heart disease.
A United Kingdom study conducted in 1952 showed that exposure to four days of excessive airborne pollutants were associated with an extra 4,000 deaths, 84% of which occurred in persons with pre-existing chronic diseases of the heart, respiratory system, or lungs. The Environmental Protection Agency released a study demonstrating that during periods of high air pollution, families exposed to the pollutants exhibited similar respiratory reactions comparable to those who regularly smoked cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was the primary cause for chronic obstructive lung diseases, accounting for 90% of the cases in the nation at the time. Over 300,000 people died of cancer annually in the later part of the decade.
Initially, there were clues that would suggest causes of cancer within humans were extrinsic rather than internal, but it became apparent that pollutants were likely contributors to the rising cancer rates, including the discovery that exposure to x-rays and radiation can cause leukemia. Similarly, studies presented in the report described an increase in lead absorption among children in urban areas and evidence that consumption of methylmercury whilst pregnant can lead to the development of cerebral palsy in newborns.