CONNECTING THE DOTS: CLIMATE CHANGE & HEALTH

A child with a nebulizer.

Climate change impacts our health in many ways.  From the increased respiratory issues such as asthma, to the water quality, heat vulnerability, and extreme weather events that affect our mental health.  Climate change impacts all of us.  

United we stand to protect our health.

Extreme Weather Events

Hurricane hitting Florida.

 

  • Rising temperatures exacerbate extreme weather events.  Events include hurricanes, flooding, drought, heatwaves, & wildfires.
    • They cause injuries, fatalities, displacement, & health impacts.  
    • They result in shorter & long term emotional trauma & mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleep difficulties, social avoidance, drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Domestic violence increases after extreme weather events.

The Air We Breathe

Air pollution coming from cars.

  • More than 100 million people in the United States live in communities where air pollution exceeds health-based air quality standards.
  • The frequency and severity of allergic illnesses, including asthma and hay fever, are likely to increase as a result of warmer temperatures. 
  • Earlier spring arrival, warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, & higher carbon dioxide concentration can increase exposure to airborne pollen allergens.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
  • High temperatures contribute to  the formation of ground-level ozone, which triggers asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 

Changes in Vector Ecology

Mosquitoes stinging a human.

 

  • Mosquitoes, ticks, & flees live longer & the range of their territory is expanding.  This is caused by earlier spring seasons, shorter & milder winters, & hotter summers.  
  • Mosquitoes thrive in hot, humid conditions, & transmit West Nile virus, Zika, dengue, malaria, etc. 
  • Warmer conditions increase the activity of mosquitoes & speed up the incubation of the virus, like Zika, inside the mosquito. 

Drinking Water

Drinking water.

  •  Florida's freshwater supplies are threatened by saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels.
  • Saltwater intrusion is already putting our aquifers at risk, & in some cases, cities have had to move wells inland to adapt.
  • Without access to clean water, we face numerous health impacts, including dehydration & death.

Extreme Heat

The sun.

  •  It causes increased muscle pains or spasms, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and exacerbates respiratory and cardiovascular issues, and dehydration. 
  • July 2019 was Earth’s hottest month on record.
  • Outdoor workers, athletes, & homeless people are more vulnerable because they spend more time outdoors. Low-income households and older adults may lack access to air conditioning. 
  • Young children, pregnant women, older adults, & people with certain medical conditions are less able to regulate their body temperature & can, therefore, be more vulnerable

Algal Blooms

Algal blooms in Florida.

  •  A harmful algal bloom (HAB) can deplete the oxygen & block the sunlight that other organisms need to live, & some HABs produce toxins that are dangerous to animals, including people.
  • HABs can occur in marine, estuarine, & freshwaters, & can impair drinking & recreational waters. In addition, HAB-associated toxins can contaminate seafood. 
  • HABs appear to be increasing in frequency along the coastlines & in the surface waters of the United States according to NOAA. These increases are because of an overabundance of nutrients, such as nitrogen from fertilizers, & warmer temperatures associated with climate change.

Food Systems

Plant-based foods.

  • Rising levels of greenhouse gases can affect the nutrition levels in food crops such as: protein, iron and zinc content of rice, wheat, peas and other food crops. 
  • This could put more people at risk of malnutrition. 
  • Though wheat and rice are not high in protein, nearly three-quarters of the world's population uses these two crops as "primary protein sources," the study says, based on data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. 
  • One study published in Environmental Health Perspectives estimates that the predicted decreases in the protein content of food crops may put about 150 million additional people at risk of protein deficiency by 2050.  
  •  Iron deficiency is the most common cause for anemia. And a "staggering" number of people are anemic – two billion, according to the World Health Organization. Iron deficiency can also impair growth and lower children's IQs.