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Some of the relationships between geochemical environment and health and disease are well documented; for example, deficiency of iodine in soil and water and dysfunction of the thyroid gland—goiter and hypothyroidism in the adult, cretinism in the infant-child, and increased risk of thyroid cancer.

Recent evidence suggests that those relationships we know about are but the tip of the iceberg, and that geochemical environment has a profound influence on the level of health of human beings and other animals; moreover, the geochemical environment, particularly as it affects intake and utilization of trace elements, plays a major causal role in many specific diseases.

There is urgent need for a multidisciplinary approach to the important problem of identifying and characterizing relationships between geochemical environment and health and disease, because this problem is so complex that it cannot be resolved by geochemists, agronomists, toxicologists, nutritionists, epidemiologists, or pathologists working alone.

Because I am a pathologist—and one particularly interested in geographic pathology—my approach to this problem is by examining the geographic patterns of disease with respect to the geochemical environment in which they occur, at the same time looking at the cause(s) and mechanism of development (pathogenesis) of those diseases in which there is reason to suspect that geochemical environment may play a causal role. With this approach, disease patterns must be considered not. merely in terms of incidence or prevalence of the disease, but also in terms of variations in its character: whether it is acute or chronic, mild or . . .

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