Statement Of Dr. Bruce Dixon
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Allegheny County Health Department
I would echo many of the comments that have been made thus far. We are fortunate we have a county municipal health department in Allegheny County, although many of the things we are talking about are regional. I would all who are here to urge your Commissioners to join us in a regional health authority something that we can do that would benefit the region. As I look around the room, I see many of our partners, people who are working very aggressively to deal with some of the environmental issues that are before us. The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is our research arm. They are about to announce a study of the environmental hazards and the health effects that have been forthcoming as a result the Board of Health funding about two years ago. I would echo Mr. Roddey's remarks about our sewage and our problems with it, and in spite of the fact that we have problems with it, it appears that most of our water supplies are in pretty good shape, and all of them meet the standards for the EPA. We are also fortunate is that we are one of two jurisdictions that have EPA authority for air quality in the eastern U.S. The reason is very simple. Before the EPA was conceptualized, we have continued to do that -- but we have a long way to go. We have certainly in the last few years met the criteria of pollutant levels, but there is certainly a lot to be done around the hazardous air pollutants and their effects on human health. One of the things we have not put much focus on and we have very little data about are the acute effects of a lot of these hazardous pollutants. We have no information about the cumulative effect over a lifetime and what they do to affect people's health, and that is one of the areas we need to address, and we need to have much more involvement with. I think with our air quality advisory board, we have involved a large cross section of the community in helping to set priorities, and these are the things that come out of this local approach. Sometimes it has been contentious, but the right answer is sometimes between the point of view of industry and the point of view of environmental advocates, and we have been able to reach some consensus into what we should be doing and where we should be doing it.
Indoor air quality has an effect on all of us, particularly the elderly, as they remain more and more sedentary and involved in indoor air exposure. We need to pay much more attention to recycling, we have a lot of people, particularly elders, who have accumulated paints, pesticides, a variety of other noxious agents in their home. It ends up in our landfills, and then ultimately finds its way into our water supply. It is a cosmopolitan issue that we need to consider at all levels. Thank you for asking me to be here today.