Current Issue / DU Alumni

Alum Nicholas Pohlit an early environmental pioneer

Nicholas Pohlit is former executive director of the National Environmental Health Association. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pohlit

Nicholas Pohlit, BS ’49, took on a fight against pollution during a time when few around him understood its toll on human health and the environment. By taking advantage of opportunities and working hard, he earned a “plum job” as executive director of the National Environmental Health Association.

Pohlit, who attended DU because it was one of few colleges offering a degree in environmental health, saw firsthand the ravages caused by pollution. He recalls growing up near steel mills and coal mines in Listie, Pa., where some days the sun disappeared behind a pall of smoke. His father died from black lung disease after working in the mines for 37 years.

At that time, Pohlit notes, there weren’t many air or water regulations because politicians didn’t know much about pollution, so he lobbied and educated congressional lawmakers.

Reflecting on his 21-year career with the National Environmental Health Association, Pohlit says his greatest accomplishment was the passage of the Allied Health Professions Personnel Training Act, which formally supported professional education in environmental health. The act provided $7 million to universities for curriculum development, laboratory facilities and scholarships.

But Pohlit’s mission didn’t stop with the act’s passage. He also helped develop the college curriculum that prepared thousands of students for environmental health careers.

“What we accomplished in terms of environmental regulations over those many years was for the good of humanity,” Pohlit says.

Pohlit served on numerous public health boards, including Colorado’s Tri-County Health Department. His environmental consulting firm helped water parks deal with bacteria and diseases and aided schools and hospitals in evaluating their environmental and health services.

Today, Pohlit operates Loveland Pools and Spas, which keeps him busy installing swimming pools with a shovel “to keep in shape.” In his spare time, he’s writing a book about his life’s work, tentatively titled Mr. Environmental Health.

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