Environmental Quality: Its Significance in Our Society

William R. Barclay, MD
JAMA. 1970;213(11):1890-1892. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170370074017.
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Seventy years ago the conquest of tuberculosis appeared to be an insurmountable task. However, voluntary health workers promoted radical new concepts: free hospital care; salaried physicians; mass screening; isolation of the contagious from home, family, and society; special tax levies; and intensive public education. It has taken 70 years of intensive cooperative effort on the part of the public and private agencies to control tuberculosis and to move within sight of eliminating it.

We face a similar but much larger task with the diseases caused by environmental pollution. Although our primary concern is with air pollution and its effect on health, we cannot deal with this as a separate entity independent of water pollution, waste disposal, and population growth. They are interrelated, and our real concern is environmental quality and its effect on health. Let us now examine the component parts of the problem that confronts us.

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