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How Climate Change Will Affect Your Health

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The editors at Health Science Degrees decided to research the topic of:

How Climate Change Will Affect Your Health

Climate change will not only change the planet we live on but it will "threaten to disrupt the physical, biological and ecological life support systems on which human health depends. Primary health care has an important role in preparing for and responding to these changes." [5]


- Projected increase in global temperature by 2100 [5]
- It took 12,500 years (last ice age) to increase by 13(C) [17]

By 2050 "heat events" will occur every 2 -5 Years instead of every 20 years [8]

Heats Events are defined by summertime weather that is substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for a location at that time of year [14].

For every degree centigrade above a threshold level, deaths can increase by 2 - 5% [8]

"Urban heat-island" effect can raise temperatures by another 5(C) [8]

- Urban Heat-island are urban areas that increase the severity of heat due to dark roofs, reduced air flow, and other factors. [14].
- Increased UV radiation could alter the human immune system [2]
- If the heat doesn't get you, the drought or infectious disease might:
- Droughts are associated with an increased rates of mental illness and suicide. [5]
- New study shows 15% increase in male suicide rate as the drought index rose. [15]
- Malnutrition due to poor growing conditions will decrease our ability to fight infections [2]
- Climate change will alter disease transmission by shifting the vector's geographic range and increasing reproductive and biting rates. [2]
- Increases in sea surface temperature and sea level lead to higher incidences of waterborne infectious and toxin-related illnesses [2]
- Don't forget the climate change will affect the way you breathe:
- "Evidence shows that chemical air pollutants and anthropogenic aerosols can alter the impact of allergenic pollen by changing the amount and features of the allergens thereby simultaneously increasing human susceptibility to them" [8]
- Most widespread types of allergies are related to the presence of allergenic pollen in air. [8]
- Experiments with CO2 showed that pollen productivity of ragweed increases by 60 percent when CO2 concentration is doubled [8]
- 235 million people currently suffer from asthma worldwide [8]
- >$73 billion spent on Asthma
- Europe spends an estimated $17.7 billion per year[5] and US spend more than $56 Billion per year. [16]
- 1.3 million premature deaths in urban areas
- From exposure to unsafe levels of outdoor air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter in 2008 [8]
- 677,000 deaths in children under 5 each year
- (over 8% of the global total) due to pneumonia caused by household air pollution [8]
- Household Air Pollution is caused by cooking and heating with solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves.
- It's already happening and it has cost us big!
- Europe Summer of 2003 - The death rate was 4 - 5X expected level, killed over 70,000 people across 16 countries [13]
- Hurricane Sandy - 72 US deaths, $50 billion in damages, 1,000 mile diameter storm [9]
- US Midwest Drought - 1,584 counties in 32 states were designated drought disaster areas [10]
- Beijing Air Pollution - 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 linked to air quality [11]
- How Does It All Relate To Our Health?
- "The health impacts of climate change can occur through a number of direct and indirect causal pathways, and the severity is, in part, determined by the adaptive capacity of the population." [5]

How Do We Deal With It?

Preventive Measures

- Early warning systems for vector borne diseases or waterborne illness. [5]
- Improved early warning for extreme weather events.
- Preparation for heatwaves, forest fires, or coastal surges.
- Forecasts from climate models must be integrated with local and regional data on demography, geography, and infrastructure. [12]
- Public education of health risks due to climate change and benefits of alternative fuels.
- Outreach and education to third world countries about the risks fossil fuels in heating and cooking.

Health Care Needs To Step Up

- Hospitals need to focus on preparedness and resilience to prevent being victims. [1]
- Moving critical equipment, like generators to roofs.
- Operable windows to provide natural ventilation.
- Reduce hospital dependence on fossil fuel energy through conservation efforts. [1]
- The less energy that hospitals require, the longer they can operate. [1]
- Alternative source of power independent from the electrical grid. [1]
- Education and advocacy around climate change policy as it impacts public health
- Increasing the health system's 'surge' capacity. [5]

Surge Capacity is a hospital's ability to deal with an influx of patients due to a large scale incident or disaster.


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