Human lives are intricately tied to nature. The quality of our environment has always been an important factor in driving human civilization. From the onset of human civilization, our ancestors have been manipulating and shaping the environment to enhance their quality of life.
In ways, both positive and negative, human activities have affected our earth, prompting irrevocable changes. Climate change being one such pressing concern threatens public health. Weather change, low rainfall, and increasing heatwaves pose a serious threat to our health.
This year global temperatures are on a course to be among the highest ever recorded. Whether we believe it or not, climate change is still happening. And it brings with it a myriad of health concerns.
1. Heat-Related illness
Rising temperatures increase the risk of heat-related illness and deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, increasing heatwaves can trigger heat strokes which can prove to be fatal if emergency treatment is not given.
2. Risk of Vector-borne Diseases
Warmer conditions also mean vector-borne infectious diseases like Malaria, spread farther and faster. Increase in temperatures and rainfall can increase the population of vectors which rely on water for their lifecycle. According to WHO, in China, climate change is predicted to considerably broaden the area where the snail-borne disease schistosomiasis occurs.
3. Increase in Ground-Level Ozone
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, climate change will lead to an increase in ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is a key element of smog, which on inhalation can trigger various health problems, including reduced lung function, throat irritation, and airway inflammation.
4. Decreased air quality
Burning fossil fuels releases harmful gases and pollutants that can cause or worsen the respiratory disease. The increase in air pollutants makes the effects of increased allergens associated with climate change even more acute.
Climate change will affect everyone but some are more exposed than others. Children, elderly people, persons with chronic diseases, low-income populations, and outdoor workers are at higher risk of heat-related illness. People living in small islands, coastal regions, in developing countries with weak healthcare facilities, mountainous and polar regions are particularly vulnerable.
There is a need for major policy change to curb the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and putting into place cleaner energy systems. Halting deforestation and investing vertical gardens can considerably protect against extreme heat events.
Promoting active transport systems like cycling or walking help reduce pollution and also boost physical activity. Providing easy access to public drinking fountains, swimming pools, and spray pads can help keep people cool during periods of extreme heat.
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)