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OLDER ADULTS: AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION
KOREN, H. S. AND A. M. GELLER. OLDER ADULTS: AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION. Presented at 2nd International Conference on Molecular Research in Environmental Medicine, Paris, FRANCE, September 07 - 09, 2006.
The baby boom generation is quickly becoming the geriatric generation. The over-65 age bracket hit 13% of Americans in 1997, and is expected to reach 20% by 2030 accounting for 73 million Americans. World-wide the total number of older people (>60years) is expected to double from 600 million to 1.2 billion during the next 20 years. Despite their expanding number, older persons have failed to attract the attention of many environmental health scientists, who often include children but not seniors under the category of "susceptible populations". Older adults are indeed susceptible to some of the effects of environmental hazards. A variety of pollutants can contribute to age-related health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease. Eleven million Americans, many of them over 65 years of age, live with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. More than two million Americans age 65 and older have asthma. Older adults have also been shown to be more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure and especially vulnerable to water-borne contaminants. In recognition of this issue, the U.S. EPA has developed a research program to better understand steps in the relationships leading from exposure to early biological effects, and adverse health effects for older adults. One prototype example demonstrating the susceptibility of the elder population to environmental toxicants is their response to exposures to ambient air pollutants encountered in daily activities. Exposure to air pollution particles is associated with increased morbidity and mortality attributable to cardiovascular and pulmonary causes in older adults. Acute exposure to particulate matter (PM) increases the risk of cardiovascular events and hospitalization for arrhythmia, myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure. Those with heart disease, particularly older adults with diabetes, arrhythmia, conduction abnormalities and heart failure, are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of inhaled PM. Older adults also have enhanced sensitivity to particulate pollution with increased respiratory morbidity and mortality. Therefore, the focus of this presentation will be on issues related to cardiopulmonary health effects of older adults exposed to air pollutants.
This is an abstract of a proposed presentation and does not necessarily reflect EPA policy.