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Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1991 Jun;5(2):365-75.

Chemicals and environmentally caused diseases in developing countries.

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  • 1University of California, Davis, School of Medicine.


This chapter discusses international aspects of diseases resulting from exposure to chemical pollutants in the environment, with an emphasis on developing countries. These countries share many of the same problems of air, water, and pesticide pollution that face the more industrialized countries. In developing countries, however, the problems are compounded by a number of unique situations, viz., economic priorities, high burden of infectious diseases, impoverishment, and absence of a regulatory framework for the disposal of toxic chemicals. This discussion emphasizes the importance of interactions among toxicants, malnutrition, and infectious diseases for both urban and rural populations insofar as these interactions contribute to disease. Toxicants not only produce disease directly but also exacerbate diseases with other causes. Specific examples from developing countries demonstrate how human health effects from exposures to environmental chemicals can be assessed. While they do not strictly fall under the rubric of "developing countries," the public health consequences of inadequate control of environmental pollution in the East European countries should demonstrate the magnitude of the problem, except that in developing countries the public health consequence of environmental chemicals will be aggravated by the widespread malnutrition and high prevalence of infectious diseases. Much needs to be done before we can adequately quantify the contribution of environmental chemicals to morbidity and mortality in developing countries with the level of sophistication now evident in the charting of infectious diseases in these countries.

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