Is Climate Change Making Us Sick?

While a number of reports exist showing parallels between untamed climate change and a rise in human illnesses from asthma to cancer, new data may point to increased health risks as a result of a warming planet.

According to a White House report, not only are conditions like asthma expected to increase, and so are common allergies such as hayfever. Once a seasonal irritant, hayfever could affect people nearly year-round as the planet warms.

And there are other threats too to be dealt with including heat-related deaths and insects carrying diseases that were once restricted to tropical regions.

According to the New York Times, two peer-reviewed British journals — Philosophical Transactions B andThe Lancet — have “dedicated many pages to the topic [of climate change’s impact on human health] this year. Europeans, unburdened by the level of political controversy over climate change in the United States, often give more conclusive interpretations of the science.”

“We are in a far more certain place now,” said Nick Watts of the University College London Institute for Global Health and a co-author of the Lancet analysis. “We feel very comfortable talking about direct effects of climate change on health.”

While the climate’s effect on health is “generally less pronounced in wealthier countries like the United States,” reports the Times, “where so many people are protected from the elements in their homes.” But a recent study out of study comparing Laredo, Tex., found that just across the border in Mexico the incidence of dengue fever was “far higher…even though the mosquitoes that carry it were more abundant in Texas,” notes the Times. “Researchers attributed the Texan advantage to economics — air conditioning and windows that shut — not climate.”

But climate change is taking its toll in developed nations, and with serious consequences like the tick outbreak in Canada that has exploded in recent years. “Researchers have found that some areas have become warmer, and thus more suitable for ticks,” reports the Times. “Warmer weather allows more immature ticks to survive into adulthood, expanding the population.”

One thing climate scientists do agree on is that if we wait for more data on the impact of climate change on human health, it may be too late to take action—another reason to support efforts to stop climate change in its tracks.

image: nattu 

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