Climate change has contributed to warmer winters and hotter summers. It’s also making air pollution and seasonal allergies unbearable. It’s currently impacting our overall health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, climate change will cause 250,000 more deaths in the year 2030. Here are some ways that climate change can affect your health.
Climate change leads to frequent and longer heatwaves in the summertime. This affects both the extremely young and old — both of which don’t survive in these life-threatening conditions. One of the worst heatwaves took place in Europe back in 2003, when over 70,000 people died from extreme heat. Back in 2016, over 20,000 people died in India and Southwest Asia after weeks of sweltering heat.
Those problems aren’t just happening in those countries. There are millions of people in the U.S. who work or spend most of their time outdoors. They’re noticing the effects of the longer, hotter summers. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the money or the resources to adapt to these sweltering conditions and end up dying as a result.
2. Allergies & Pollen
The number of asthma sufferers is on the rise in the U.S. alone. Most people have been buying more allergy medication to stop allergies in their tracks. “Climate change has led to an increase in common allergy symptoms, such as itchy eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion,” says Dr. Summit Shah of Premier Allergy.
Since 1980, the number has nearly doubled and has been a result of several factors, including burning fossil fuels. The increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and pollen production has led to an increase in allergy sufferers. Pollen produces proteins that have gotten stronger with the increased levels of CO2.
The particles found in burned fossil fuels become attracted to mold spores and pollen. It then introduces them into people’s airways and lung sacs. Climate change has also been responsible for extending the allergy season from two weeks to four weeks in the Northern Hemisphere. The extension of asthma and allergy season has led to a decrease in productivity and school days that has cost the U.S. $6 billion in 2007. The number is only expected to rise with each passing year and season.
3. Air Pollution
Air pollution is different from seasonal allergies in which is made up of carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Breathing in air pollution leads to health problems and death. Over 7 million premature deaths around the world have been a result of air pollution. As the summers continue to get hotter and longer from climate change, some of the most dangerous particles will form faster in the air.
Climate change has also been a result of the high-pressure systems since in most places of the world. A high-pressure system is when cool, dry air brings increasing winds. Those winds introduce air pollution and particles, which never get blown away. As a result, people will keep breathing in those fatal particles.
4. The spread of Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases have become a result of heatwaves and extreme weather events. The warmer conditions have led to an increase in vector-borne diseases. Meanwhile, extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes have led to an increase in toxins and diseases transmitted by rodents. Parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are at risk for mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria.
Lyme disease is on the rise in the U.S. This pattern will continue to flourish as the winters get warmer. Speaking of warmer winters, extreme weather events are increasing in intensity as a result of climate change. This includes rain and snowstorms. As a result, floods and heavy rain can spread toxic diseases and create an environment for mosquitoes.
5. Extreme Weather Conditions
Carrying on with the theme of extreme weather conditions, floods, heavy rains, and hurricanes have increased with climate change. These events are becoming nearly fatal — especially in the Midwest and southern states of the U.S. Most of these storms have destroyed communities and swept away businesses, homes, and vehicles.
“There are even more problems following a hurricane,” says Dr. Summit Shah of Premier Allergy. If your neighborhood has a power outage, then you’ll have to rely on a generator to produce power.
If you don’t have the generator running properly, then you could increase your chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Or, there was a flood, and your vehicle got swept away, then you could drown. Due to climate change, there has been an increase in hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes, and thunderstorms.
6. Winter Weather Anomalies
Warmer winters have become a new thing as more rain than snow has been falling in the Northern Hemisphere during this time of year. But that has lead to an increase in ice storms and heavy snowfall patterns. Both of these storms can cause serious health problems and can lead to increased automobile accidents, cardiac disease, and power outages. The melting of the heavy ice and snow has contributed to flooding in many parts of the U.S.
7. Mental Health
Climate change’s extreme weather patterns can affect people’s mental health and well-being. Climate change has become a concern among Millennials and Gen Zers. More people than ever have suffered mental health consequences as a result of weather-related events, according to the 2016 U.S. Climate and Health Assessment. Mental health symptoms of climate change include anxiety, depression, guilt, and stress.
When you see climate change as a global issue, you feel overwhelmed by the anxiety, fear, and despair of the future of the world. But recognizing this problem is the first step to handling it.