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Can Climate Change Make You Sick?

You know that it's bad for the planet, but have you ever wondered what the effect of climate change will be on human health? In July, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report on the impact climate change is likely to have on general health in the United States, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Those at greatest risk are residents of the northern states and the Midwest, where people aren't as used to heat as those in other areas of the country. Overall, the EPA's report found that as temperatures rise we may see more:

  • heat stroke
  • illness due to salmonella (due to heat-related contamination of food and water supplies)
  • drowning due to storm surges
  • heart disease because of rising ozone levels
  • severe attacks of respiratory diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because of poor air quality due to ozone and an increase in wildfires.

The very young, the very old, the poor, and people with compromised immune systems are most likely to be hardest hit.

Another warning, issued in August, 2008, by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, concerns the impact of climate change on allergy patients. Here, the problem will be earlier and longer allergy seasons with more spring pollen and increased airborne irritants in the fall. More air pollution, ozone and wildfires can also be expected to aggravate asthma, the researchers warned. The review was published in the September, 2008, issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Here are some of the steps the EPA suggested in order to adapt to the anticipated risks:

  • Expand installation of cooling systems in residential and commercial buildings
  • Improve early warning systems for extreme heat
  • Improve infrastructure to keep water clean
  • Increased emphasis on the use of public transit, walking and biking in order to reduce vehicle emission.

The North Carolina researchers also recommended eating locally grown fruits and vegetables and eating less meat to improve health and reduce the human contribution to climate change. I see this as a good first step in breaking our dependence on fossil fuels and joining other advanced nations in pledging to reduce our carbon emissions.

We all have the responsibility to help curtail climate change - What steps have you taken personally to combat this global threat?

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Reader Comments (2)

Is this supposed to be surprising?

We are not a separate entity from the earth. We come from the earth, and if we hurt it, obviously it will turn around and hurt us.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbrad

Yes climate change really can make you sick. In fact, I'm sick of hearing about the next ice age (70's crisis), The ozone layer (80's crisis), Global Warming (90's crisis) and now Climate Change (00's ambiguous crisis). Let's work responsibly with everyone we can to improve Nuclear, Solar, Wind, and emerging energy use in the U.S.. Lets get off of oil, natural gas and coal, and provide the private sector with incentive to innovate instead of taxing it to death. Let's use responsible and intelligent science instead of faulty, emotionally driven science and use results based testing to bring the many WONDERFUL green, diesel vehicles that our European brethren have at their disposal to the U.S.. Let's all pitch in and do our part without being Nazi's, without handicapping the economy and without perturbing the vast majority of the U.S.. After all, who is more likely to care about the environment, someone who has ample money, is happy and successful and can AFFORD to care... or someone who has no money or net worth because the dollar is worth nothing, jobs are sent overseas where THERE ARE NO regulations and effectively have polluted the earth several times more than having responsible policies and regulations in the U.S.

It's late, I'm rambling... but seriously people, nature is very resilient, much more so than we lowly human beings give it credit for. Climate change is the least of our environmental problems, but hey, it has the buzz factor about it like all the made up environmental emergencies of the past. We have better things to focus on with our time and money, climate change is not one of them.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Gary
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