Monthly Archives: August 2015

Climate Health Summit in DC

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.32.31 PMMost of the nation’s health organizations, including the American Public Health Association, Trust for America’s Health, American Psychological Association, Health Care Without Harm, Allergy and Asthma Network, National Network of Public Health Institutes, National Association of City and County Health Officials, Moms Clean Air Force, American Psychiatric Association, PSE Healthy Energy, and American Lung Association, will join Physicians for Social Responsibility in DC on September 20-21 for a “Climate Health Summit.” The event seeks to “inform participants about the health implications of climate change and the health benefits of climate solutions; provide communication skills useful for informing the public and policymakers about this critical issue; and provide resources and communications guidance to deliver that message effectively to decision-makers who have opportunities to support actions for a healthy climate.”

Here’s a look at the agenda and topics:

Heat, Pollen and Air Pollution

Extreme Weather Events: Infrastructure Damage and Impact on Vulnerable Populations

Climate Change and Infectious Diseases

Effects of Climate Change Food and Water Resources

Mental health issues and climate change

Transportation Choices and Health

USGCRP Climate & Health Assessment

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.41.46 AM Check out the draft report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, collected last spring by the Interagency Group on Climate Change and Human Health. Takeaway line: “While often assessed individually, exposure to multiple climate change threats can occur simultaneously with compounding or cascading health impacts.”

Chapters include:

Climate Change and Human Health (link is external)
Temperature Related Death and Illness (link is external)
Air Quality Impacts (link is external)
Vectorborne Disease (link is external)
Water-Related Illness (link is external)
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Distribution (link is external)
Extreme Weather (link is external)
Mental Health and Well-Being (link is external)
Climate-Health Risk Factors and Populations of Concern (link is external)

Here’s a clip from the Vectorborne Diseases:

Earlier Tick Activity and Northward Range Expansion

Key Finding 2:
Ticks capable of carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease and other pathogens will show earlier seasonal activity and a generally northward expansion in their habitat range in response to increasing temperatures associated with climate change [Likely, High Confidence]. Longer seasonal activity and expanding geographic range of these ticks may increase the risk of human exposure to ticks [Low Confidence)

Climate Change Is Increasing ER Visits For Diseases And Injuries Unrelated To Heat

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.31.06 AM The Climate Progress blog, published by the Center for American Program, has an updated on a recent study out of Rhode Island, which examined the health impacts of climate change on ER visits. Takeaway line: “The study warned that, if climate change continues to drive temperatures up, Rhode Island’s residents “would experience substantially higher morbidity and mortality.”

Here’s a clip:

The study, published this month by researchers at Brown University and the Rhode Island Department of Health in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, focused on the population of Rhode Island. Researchers found that it didn’t need to be that hot for people to start visiting the ER in higher numbers — according to the study, a temperature of 75 degrees compared to 65 made heat-related emergency room visits increase by 3.3 percent. But, as it got hotter, the jump in visits was more acute: on days with highs of 85 degrees, ER visits jumped 23.9 percent compared to days with highs of 75 degrees. In addition, Rhode Island’s death rate increased by 4 percent on 85-degree days compared to 75-degree days.

“Our primary finding is that as temperatures increase, the number of emergency room visits and deaths increase,” Samantha Kingsley, a Brown University public health graduate student and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “But people were going to the hospital for heat-related reasons at temperatures below what we would typically consider extreme.”

And, according to the research, it wasn’t the elderly in Rhode Island that experienced the most emergency room visits. Instead, it was among the large age group of 18 to 64 year olds. The study’s authors weren’t sure exactly why this group seemed most susceptible to heat, but they did offer a few ideas.

“Whether stronger associations in this age group reflect increased opportunities for exposure (eg: through increased outdoor recreational or occupational activities), less careful attention to heat warnings, or are simply a function of the relatively lower baseline rate of [emergency room] admissions in this age group remains unclear,” the report states.

Previous studies and accounts have also linked higher temperatures to increased hospital visits and deaths, but in heat waves, the elderly have often been most at risk. Seniors may not be able to leave their homes if they’re too warm, and if they have health problems — such as heart disease — they may be less effective at circulating blood and keeping cool. This May, a heat wave in India killed about 2,000 people — many of whom were elderly.

The study warned that, if climate change continues to drive temperatures up, Rhode Island’s residents “would experience substantially higher morbidity and mortality.” If, by the end of this century, days in Rhode Island become 10 degrees warmer — a projection that’s on the high end of climate models — the summertime death rate in the state would increase by 1.5 percent, or about 80 additional deaths per summer. In addition, the ER visit rate would jump by 25 percent, or an increase of about 1,500 visits every summer. And since other states — not just Rhode Island — are expected to see higher temperatures with climate change, the study’s results could serve to make residents around the U.S. wary of high heat.

Study: Achieving a Climate for Health

healthclimateThe Climate for Health group, a national initiative of health leaders committed to advancing climate solutions, recently put out a report, ACHIEVING A CLIMATE FOR HEALTH, that includes a nice overview on the implications on climate change and public health. Here’s a clip:

To understand the health threats of climate change — and to design
interventions—it is helpful to understand the pathways through which
climate change is connected to health outcomes. This section
summarizes the three basic pathways through which climate change
affects health, as identified by the international scientific community.

1. Direct impacts of climate change, including temperature changes and more frequent, extreme weather events, threaten health.

•Heat waves, drought, storms, heavy rains, and floods.

Scientists forecast increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events, from tornadoes and hurricanes to intense heat. Such
events can be very dangerous, even deadly, increasing threats of
heatstroke, injuries, drowning, hypothermia, infectious diseases,
displacement, and mental stress. Extreme weather events can
contaminate freshwater supplies and crops, impair health care
infrastructure, and damage livelihoods. In the United States,
extreme summer-heat events are the leading weather-related
cause of death and are increasing.

•Air quality.

As temperatures rise and air pollution increases, so
do allergic respiratory diseases, asthma, and other health
impacts. Ozone, a major toxin in smog, increases as temperatures
rise. Increases in forest fires produce additional air pollutants,
such as carcinogens and fine particulate matter linked to
cardiorespiratory disease and death.

In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that threaten human health.

•Ultraviolet radiation.

Higher summertime temperatures and ultraviolet exposures can increase nonmelanoma skin cancers and cataracts. Across the globe, climate change is exacerbating existing health problems and creating new ones.

Achieving a Climate for Health: Philanthropy to Promote Health and Justice through the Challenges of Climate Change

2. Climate impacts on natural systems trigger impacts on animals, insects, plants, and ecosystems that can then affect human health.

•Vector-borne diseases.

As weather patterns change, animals and insects migrate, bringing diseases like Lyme disease, malaria, and dengue fever to new areas. Warming temperatures also allow some insects to breed more rapidly and to survive longer.

•Food and waterborne infections.

Some pathogens in water and food are climate-sensitive, so changes in temperature and rainfall can increase the incidence of parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections through food and water exposures.

•Food insecurity.

Environmental stressors like changing growing seasons and increasing droughts can compromise crop yields and nutritional quality. These changes threaten food security as the world’s population and its food needs continue to grow.

Naomi Klein on President Obama’s Climate Initiative

From Democracy Now: As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. But does the plan go far enough? We speak to Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” which is out in paperback today

Climate Change and Children’s Health

CCOur partners at Yale’s Climate Connection have an interesting piece on the connections between health and climate change, with a special focus on kids:

Pediatrician Leonardo Trasande of the NYU School of Medicine says the smallest among us may face the largest risk.

TRASANDE: “Children are uniquely vulnerable to many common exposures in the environment. Pound for pound, they breathe in more air, they eat more food, and drink more water. And so they have higher exposures to many common factors in the environment. Their organ systems are also more susceptible because they’re actively developing.”

Media Matters: Media’s Disconnect On Climate Change And Extreme Weather

latimesMedia Matters examines the latest headlines on climate change and raises an interesting question: “Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers’ wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.”

Read the full story here.