Global warming is a fact. Skeptics currently in positions of power aside, most scientists and policy makers agree with this statement. They also agree climate change is not good for your health.
Although global warming affects all of us, children, pregnant women, seniors, people suffering from chronic illnesses, and the poor are at a higher risk for climate change-related health issues.
But what are the greatest health hazards linked to global warming? According to the EPA, these include:
- The effect of changes in temperature
- The effects and aftermath of extreme weather events
- An increase in infectious, vectorborne diseases
- Impacts on air quality
- Food security and nutrition issues
- Impacts and effects on mental health
To better understand how each of these global warming-related issues affect our health, we’ll take a closer look at each one.
The effect of changes in temperature
As the name suggests, global warming is making our planet a hotter place. As temperatures turn up, summer heat waves increase, which will lead to more heat-related deaths. This effect will have a particularly strong impact on urban areas, which are typically warmer than surrounding rural areas.
Exposure to extreme heat can lead to many health risks, such as dehydration, heat stroke, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. These soaring temperatures will hit those hardest who spend more time outdoors, such as gardeners and other outdoor works, athletes, and the homeless.
More people will need to rely on air conditioning, putting poor families who don’t have access to reliable air conditioning systems at greater risk.
Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are also among the groups most vulnerable to the negative health effects of extreme heat.
The effects and aftermath of extreme weather events
Hurricanes, extreme flooding, droughts, storms: Thanks to global warming, these and other natural disasters are on the rise and arrive in their more extreme, potent forms.
Extreme weather events can affect human health by decreasing mobility due to washed out roads and bridges, which makes it more difficult to reach hospitals or obtain crucial medical supplies.
These events can make it harder for people to gain access to clean drinking water and food. Higher incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning and intestinal illnesses have also been recorded.
Last but not least, extreme weather events have a negative effect on our mental health and are known to trigger both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An increase in infectious, vectorborne diseases
No doubt about it, mosquitos, ticks, and fleas like it warm. Bad news, since these “vectors” are known to sometimes spread diseases to humans.
Changes in temperature and an increase in extreme weather events due to global warming will also bring about a surge in the spread of Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, and cases of the West Nile virus, which mosquitos spread from birds to humans.
Impacts on air quality
Air quality most certainly has an effect on human health. Global warming leads to higher levels of pollution and a greater risk of wildfires. In general, it also worsens the air quality, which leads to an increase in asthma attacks and other respiratory conditions.
Global warming also brings with it higher levels of ground-level ozone, which puts people at a greater risk of premature death. An increase in fine particles in the air can also lead to many serious diseases and conditions, such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Food security and nutrition issues
Climate change increases the risk of chemicals and pollutants finding their way into our food. Warmer sea temperatures lead to higher mercury levels found in seafood and higher air temperatures promote an increase in the growth of Salmonella, a bacteria which causes food poisoning and can lead to death.
Beyond these direct health effects, global warming also has a major impact on farming, due to an increase in both droughts and floods, which puts our food supply at risk.
Impacts and effects on mental health
Global warming doesn’t only affect our physical health; we can measure its effects on our mental health as well.
As mentioned before, extreme weather conditions can cause depression and PTSD. Climate change-related worries and concerns trigger anxiety about the future, which leads to higher levels of stress.
The effects of global warming and an increasingly hot world can also impact those with pre-existing mental health conditions, especially since some mental health medications make it more difficult for the body to regulate temperature.
[Featured Image by ESB Professional/Shutterstock]