climate change

The Effects of Climate Change on Our Health

Climate change is getting worse and worse by the minute. Seasons are changing, temperatures are shifting crazily, nothing seems like what it once was and somehow, we are still not paying much attention to the matter.

Climate change can not only affect our environment and out planet, but it can seriously affect our health in the future.

More than one hundred experts from global groups like the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency researched what are the impacts that climate change will have on our health states.

Warming temperatures increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events, rising sea level, droughts, flooding, all of this impacts on our health. These changes will affect the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and the weather we experience.

It is pretty scary when we look at it closely. And even though global warming has its benefits like fewer winter deaths and an increased food production is some areas, the overall effects are extremely negative for everyone who live on planet Earth.

Air Pollution:

The main causes of global warming are due to dangerous gasses being released into the environment. Burning coal and oil results in carbon and particle pollution while plants produce more allergenic pollen, which affects respiratory health.

Allergies and asthma will rise up. High temperatures only contribute to pollution and since it is called global warming and pollution is the main cause of it, there is no escaping this evil.

Irritated eyes, noses and really bad news for our lungs and throats are amongst some of the negative effects of climate change on the air we breathe.

Extreme Heat:

Rising temperatures are a global danger, especially in third world countries. Heat is often a matter of life and death, no one is immune to it. Heat waves tend to send thousands of people to the emergency room, fainting, dizziness, and weakness is a common symptom of extreme temperatures.

Summer is lasting longer everywhere and heat waves are a constant in our lives. The heat not only causes discomfort, but also increase the number of illnesses, visits to the hospital and deaths. It seems like every country and every city is hitting their record of highest temperatures every year, and it does not cool off at night.

It causes most harm in elderly people and young children. It also affects people who live in big cities in general, since high temperatures are magnified by paved surfaces, the lack of green spaces also contributes to poorer air.

Water Supply:

The melting glaciers pick up pollution easily and eventually, this will compromise the supply of the water we drink, definitely fishing (as well as the life of sea creatures, of course) and even the water we swim in. It can all be contaminated quicker than we think.

People can become ill when exposed to contaminated drinking water or bathing water. Therefore, global warming increases the risk of illness through increased temperatures, frequent heavy rains and storms.

The effects of this on our health can include gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea), and affect the body’s respiratory and nervous system as well, and cause lives or kidney damage.

Diseases Spread by Mosquitos:

This year, the Zika virus in the epidemic sending everyone into emergency/panic mode, it spreads fast and it can be highly dangerous.

We have examples like malaria, Lyme and dengue – also spread by mosquitos and ticks – and how dangerous these diseases can be.

Warmer temperatures mean that mosquitos have a longer and earlier breeding, and makes disease-carrying insects more active and can spread into new areas. When temperatures increase, rainfall patterns change and summers become longer, insects can remain active or a lot longer than they usually do. They can cover wider areas and spread more easily, increasing the risks for people everywhere.

Less Nutritious Food and Food Contamination:

A change in our climate inevitably means that the types of food we can grow will change with it. The rising amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can actually lower the nutritional value of the food we produce. Which means that our vegetables, fruits and legumes will not be as good for our health as they could.

Higher temperatures will also increase flood and droughts, which means that food will be easily contaminated, and through food supply, it can cause major effects on our health. Extreme weather events can slow or disrupt the distribution of food. Which means the shelves in the supermarkets will be emptier.  

Food poisoning like Salmonella and other bacteria will also increase with higher temperatures, since it causes bacteria grows more rapidly.

This type of disease causes gastrointestinal distress, and in extreme cases, death. It is likely that global warming will increase the exposure to chemical contaminants in food.

To give an example, a higher sea level will increase mercury concentration in seafood (mercury and cancer walk hand in hand).

Bottom line is, climate change can seriously affect the food we eat, its quality and put at risk our health with contamination and diseases.

Mental Health:

Even though a less direct effect, it is an equally serious one. With global warming happening, we can expect to see a lot more of extreme weather events like devastating storms and hurricanes.

The destruction that comes with it does the damage not only to the area, to the loss of lives and of material maters, but the psychological effects are far greater that we might think. The loss of everything, family, home, pets can cause severe damage

The destruction that comes with it does the damage not only to the area, to the loss of lives and of material matters, but the psychological effects are far greater that we might think. The loss of everything, family, home, pets can cause severe damage to mental health.

When under stress, even the stress of reading about the effects of climate change, someone with a mental illness will become even worse. Individuals with mental illnesses are especially vulnerable to extreme heat.

A study show that those who have a pre-existing mental illness are three times more at risk of death in a heat wave than those who do not.

That is due to the fact that medication for mental illnesses makes it harder for the body to regulate the temperature and thus they are particularly at risk.

A few groups of people are at a higher risk for mental health and should be on the watch for signs and seek treatment.

These groups are children, older adults, pregnant women and post-partum women, people who already have a mental illness, people with low incomes and emergency workers.

Natural Disasters:

While on the subject, the number of weather-related disasters has more than triples since the 1960’s. these disasters result in over 60,000 deaths every year, usually in developing countries. More than half of the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers from the sea.

This may cause people to be forced to move, the rising sea level and weather events can destroy homes, medical facilities and cause havoc all around. Rainfall patterns will likely affect the supply of fresh water.

Lack of clean water compromises not only hygiene but also risks of diseases, it also leads to drought and famine in extreme cases. Floods are also very likely to increase in frequency and intensity.

Flooding contaminates water, creates a breeding environment for disease-carrying mosquitos and increases the risk of water-borne diseases, aside from the more obvious physical injuries, drowning and damaging homes.

How can we make a difference?

Not everything is lost and doomed, but we do not have to wait around for our governments to finds a solution to these problems.

There are many simple and small things that each one of us can do in our daily lives that will help improve the condition of our planet and hopefully, reduce the effects of global warming, so make sure you follow these tips for a healthier future for all of us!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: usually, we learn this at school and these three R’s are a treasure when it comes to helping our environment stay healthy.

Reduce waste by choosing products that are reusable instead of disposable (hello reusable water bottle).

Buying products with little packaging is also another way to reduce waste. And when you can, recycle paper, newspaper, plastic, glass and aluminum cans.

You can find a recycling program around your city and collect this clean waste and drop it off whenever you can. This small actions can save up to 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and that’s just you!

Buying products with little packaging is also another way to reduce waste. And when you can, recycle paper, newspaper, plastic, glass and aluminum cans.

You can find a recycling program around your city and collect this clean waste and drop it off whenever you can. This small actions can save up to 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and that’s just you!

Change a Light Bulb: one of the simplest ways to help the environment is replacing your regular light bulb with compact fluorescent light or LED bulbs. They last longer, they will reduce your energy bill and they will help the environment, so please go ahead and make some light changes around your house.

Reusable Shopping Bags: simple and easy. This is a trend around Europe and most developed countries, but it should spread all around. Carrying one or two reusable shopping bags can reduce waste, which discharges CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, polluting the air, soil and groundwater. And this can even be fun, there a tons of fashionable, fun options of reusable bags for you to choose from, and chances are, your local grocery store sells the basic ones, so no excuses here!

Less Heat and Less Air Conditioning: this is a big step towards improving the health of our planet. Turn down the heater when you are sleeping at night or away for the day, and keep temperatures at a moderate level at all times.

Just by setting your thermostat 2 degrees lower in winter and 2 degrees higher during summer can save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (evil enemy) every year.

Plus, adding insulation to your walls and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can decrease your heating costs more than 25 percent. It is good for the planet and for your pocket.

Plus, adding insulation to your walls and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can decrease your heating costs more than 25 percent. It is good for the planet and for your pocket.

Use Washing Machine and Dishwasher only when Necessary: do not go and use both of these appliances when they are not yet full. Both use up a lot of energy and water. If you need to use them when it is half-loaded than make sure you use the settings for less water and energy use.

There is also no need for washing in high temperatures since detergents are efficient and get you clothes and dishes clean even at lower temperatures. Save up some energy also by reusing clean water.

For example, if you shower takes a few minutes to heat up, place a bucket there and collect all that clean water, you can reuse it to fill you washing machine and save up again.

Energy-Efficient Products: buy them! When buying a car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Some home appliances now come in a range of energy sufficient models and again, fluorescent/LED light bulbs are designed to use much less energy than the regular ones.

Try to steer away from products with excessive packaging, if you reduce the garbage in your house by only ten percent, you can alredy save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Drive Less: less driving obviously means fewer gas emissions. The obsession with owning a car and driving everywhere needs to stop. Walking and biking are much healthier options, for you and for the environment.

If you need to go to a far place, use public transportation, bus, metro, trams, and train, and even make sure that when you drive you give a ride to someone going in the same direction.  This can save up tons of dangerous emissions every day.

Protect and Conserve Forests: they are the heroes during this time of global warming, tress filter carbon and release clean air.

When forests are burned or cut down, their stored carbon is release into the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for twenty percent of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Aside from getting involved in organizations that protect and conserve forests around the world, a good way to save them from your own home is reduce your paper use.

If you are student, print less, Xerox less, reuse pages, which have been used on one side and find a place to recycle all your materials after you are done with them.

Recycling and reducing paper use can help greatly with keeping forests alive. Keep in mind we are not encouraging to not read books anymore, only to make smarter choices.

Plant a Tree: while talking about forests, this old one is still very meaningful towards reducing the effects of global warming. Since trees absorb carbon dioxide, the more the merrier.

And there are far too few of them around to equilibrate the situation. A single tree will absorb an average of one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

So go to your garden and start digging. If you do not have a garden, find in your community places that are environment friendly, they usually have this initiative of planting trees, so get informed and plant your own!

Use Less Hot Water: reduce your showers to about 5 minutes and you will be saving up tons of water and energy every year. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Taking cooler showers will also do wonders for your skin, so do try it out!

You can also wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce the energy required to produce hot water.

This chance can save 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in a household. And use dry your clothes naturally instead of using a dryer whenever possible. Plus, use the energy-savings on your dishwasher and allow the dishes to air-dry.

Use the “Off” Switch: this can help save a lot of electricity and help with global warming. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, and only use as much light as you need. Turn off your television, computer, video player, stereo and all electronics when you are not using them. Unplugging electric things from the wall socket, this can also save up a lot of energy and your bill will also decrease in price.

Encourage Others to do the Same: last but, certainly not least. Share the information you know about the consequences of global warming and climate change as well as the tips on how to help slow this down until we find a solution.

Share with your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors and take opportunities to encourage public officials to engage on this matter and establish programs that will help the environment. If we take this as seriously as it is, together we can and will make a difference.

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