In a recent report, published March 15, researchers, comprising of 11 medical professions, such as allergists, pediatricians, infectious-disease doctors, etc., reveals the numerous ways in which climate change affects the health of Americans nationwide. Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the new group, called the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, said, “Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,”
Though doctors recognize the threat climate change poses, most Americans are not aware of the health risks. According to the report, only about one third of Americans can identify a specific way that climate change affects health. Because so few know the health effects of climate change, as evident by the video, the researchers identified the main ways climate change affects each region of the U.S. Below are some of the biggest risks that climate change poses to the health of Americans.
Perhaps the most of obvious harm to people’s health is changing temperatures. “Climate change is causing more very hot days, greater humidity, and longer, hotter and more frequent heat waves,” the authors wrote in the report. With hot temperatures comes deadly heat-related illness, such as heat stroke; it can also worsen chronic conditions like heart disease. Additionally, extreme heat threatens those taking certain medications because they cannot regulate their body temperature.
As the climate fluctuates and grows warmer, disastrous weather events increase in frequency and severity. Some of the weather events include heavy rains, floods, droughts, and major storms. According to the report, those most in danger of these weather events are children, the elderly, the poor, and the disabled. In addition, those living in the Northeast, the Southeast, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and Hawaii face the greatest risk.
In the report, the authors wrote, “Climate change reduces air quality because heat increases smog, wildfires and pollen production.” Air pollution poses the greatest health risk to those living in the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the Northeast. As for wildfires, it’s a particular threat in the Northwest, the Southwest, and the Great Plains.
Other dangers associated with climate change that can’t be detected by weather reports are disease-carrying insects. With warmer temperatures coming early and lasting longer, mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can survive in new regions that were previously too cold to inhabit. According to the report, lyme-disease-carrying ticks are now found in 46% of all U.S. counties; in 1998 they were only found in 30% of U.S. counties. Tick-borne infections are a particular threat to those in the Midwest. The West Nile virus, as well as the virus that causes dengue fever – both carried by mosquitoes – is also becoming more common, especially in the Southeast and Northeast.
Climate change results in warmer temperatures, which result in frequent rainfall. The higher water temperatures and heavy rains, which lead to rising sea levels and flooding, spread germs and chemicals. This affects not only drinking water and recreational water, but it also contaminates fish and shellfish. Water contamination has many sources. For instance, waste can enter the water supply after a flood. Higher temperatures can also lead to toxic algae blooms, notes the researchers. Water-related infections are most common in the Midwest and Southeast.
Extreme heat also increases food contamination. For instance, heavy rainfall and flooding, which increase during warmer temperatures, spread bacteria and viruses to farm crops. Additionally, rising water temperatures increase the presence of germs and heavy metals in seafood. Food-borne illnesses pose the greatest risk to those living in the Southwest and Midwest.
In addition to contamination, climate change also reduces levels of essential nutrients in the food supply. The higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are associated with lower levels of minerals in certain crops. The researchers also note that higher temperatures not only spoil food, but droughts also affect food production.
Mental Health and Well-being
Lastly, climate change can also affect people’s mental health. As disastrous weather events occur more frequently, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder become more common. Natural disasters also increase drug and alcohol abuse, added the researchers. Climate change threatens the mental well-being of every region in the continental U.S.
As temperatures continue to fluctuate and change, the health of Americans will continue to be at risk. It’s important to protect one’s health as risks linked to climate change continue to increase. For instance, do you have health insurance? If so, do you have enough coverage? Does your coverage fit your needs? Ensure your protection today by contacting a licensed agent to go over your health insurance options.
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