Can Climate Change Affect My Health? June 2, 2017

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When you live in a coastal city prone to flooding, the ways in which climate can affect your health becomes pretty clear, pretty fast. But aside from the bodily and economic dangers that extreme weather can cause, there are many other ways the changing environment can affect our health.

According to the CDC, “…public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere. The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.”

While changes to the environment and the immediate affect on humans can vary depending on location, geography, and socioeconomic status, increasing evidence supports the fact that our carbon footprints are creating lasting health hazards:

Climate Change Can Affect Your Heart. Heat waves caused by global warming, combined with damage to the ozone, can decrease cardiac health and increase the instance of heart disease in the population. According to WHO, “Extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people. In the heat wave of summer 2003 in Europe for example, more than 70 000 excess deaths were recorded.”

Pollution Can Worsen Allergy Symptoms. Rising levels of carbon dioxide and increasingly higher temperatures causes drastically earlier – and prolonged – pollen seasons, and increases our sensitivity to allergens. Increased rain can also promote the growth of excess mold and fungi.

Climate Change Creates Arid Geography and Harmful Ocean Bacteria. Desertification puts our ability to produce crops at risk, and may also promote the growth of dangerous gastroenteritis-causing bacteria in our water. Undernutrition and higher food prices are another consequence of rising temperatures.

Increased Temperatures and Rainfall Fosters Disease and Threatens Freshwater Supplies. Rainfall and flooding is well known for spreading disease – including the spread of Lyme carrying ticks and disease carrying mosquitos, with dengue and zika viruses a growing concern. A particular hazard for those living in the Lowcountry is flooding, which can cause sewage systems to overflow.

If you are experiencing health issues and suspect that your immediate environment may be causing symptoms such as allergies or illness, talk with your physician about ways you may reduce exposure to pollutants, bacteria and toxins. You can also do your small (but important) part in reducing waste and creating a safer environment for your community – and a future generation.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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