The population of the United States of older adults is projected to increase to 71 million people by 2030. With age comes a deterioration of physical and mental capabilities. Many of these people have lifetime exposure to a complex set of environmental chemicals, infections, and other environmental stresses which create a body burden and leave the individual open to increasing levels of acute and chronic disease. Eighty percent of older adults have one chronic condition and 50% have two or more chronic conditions. The health of the individual further deteriorates because of infections and falls resulting in injuries.
Older people have more frequent falls and injuries because of problems related to vision, balance, medications they are taking, existing disease processes, level of nutrition and hydration, stress, environmental chemicals, and other environmental problems.
Environmental problems causing health threats to older people include indoor and outdoor air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Specifically, poor health has been attributed to power plant emissions, vehicle emissions, ozone, agriculture, industry, chemical contamination of land and water, and foodborne disease. The most frequent diseases identified as related to environmental concerns are pulmonary diseases and asthma. Also, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and Parkinson’s disease are related to environmental concerns. (Lead and PCBs may be related to dementia and the pesticide, rotenone as well as manganese may be related to Parkinson’s disease.) Initial exposures may have occurred in the womb when the individual was a fetus and then accumulated during the ensuing years. Many environmental chemicals promote excessive oxidative stress and inflammation.