Many of us have heard of or are affected by health effects, such as cancer, genetics, stress, aging, and obesity. Health effects are changes in health caused by exposure to a harmful substance. These can be environmental, occupational, or genetic. Health effects are a major consideration in all fields, including nutrition, public health, environmental research, occupational safety, public health sciences, and even in the health sciences itself.
There are many health effects caused by both environmental and occupational exposure to hazardous substances. The most common and severe is a lung disease caused by chemical pollutants. One of the leading causes of chronic breathing problems, emphysema, is caused by long-term exposure to chemical fumes and smoke from automobiles, power plants, tobacco smoke, dust, chemicals, and industrial wastes.
Global warming, another major environmental risk factor, has resulted in increases in the average number of annual deaths, along with increased morbidity and mortality among children. The combination of increased air pollution, water pollution, and climate change affects all aspects of health. The most widespread health effects due to climate change are increased frequency and severity of heat waves, extreme weather events, drought, insect-related health problems, and fatalities from illness. Additional Deaths Per Year (DPY) is gained due to death from malnutrition, tuberculosis, malaria, infectious diseases, unintentional injuries and deaths attributed to traffic accidents, malnutrition, child malnutrition, and associated diseases. Global warming is among the top three risks to life on earth, according to the World Health Organization.
How can climate change affect human health? Rising temperatures melt ice caps and raise global sea levels, expanding coastal areas and increasing flooding risks for cities and towns. A rise in temperature over six degrees can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses in human beings. Extreme weather events can lead to flooding, mudslides, tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorms, which may cause physical injury, loss of life, or disability. The frequency and severity of seasonal weather changes may increase the risk of disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics.
Climate change has caused an unusual outbreak of dengue fever in Southeast Asia, resulting in a catastrophic spread. In the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Malaysia there have been large scale outbreaks of chikungunya, leyenia, and malaria, with over 30% of the world’s cases. Each year, Southeast Asia experiences one of the worst annual dengue epidemics, with millions of people becoming infected with the transmittable virus that remains dormant in the human body. A similar but less severe epidemic also has affected East Africa, with the disease causing more than a million deaths and preventing millions more from receiving proper treatment. With every new disease that is discovered, it becomes harder to determine its direct cause, but recent studies have revealed that climate change may be playing a role. For instance, the West African countries worst affected by the disease are experiencing warmer seasons, resulting in more humidity and warmer temperatures.
Pollution causes different health effects at different levels, for example increased respiratory infections in asthma sufferers. In addition to this, fine particles in the air cause skin allergies, coughing, and other symptoms that may not be apparent on the surface. Fine particles can enter the lungs through coughing, airborne dust, and other sources, and may enter the lungs through inhalation. This means that if people are exposed to higher levels of pollution, such as in cities, they may not always recognize the symptoms until they become seriously ill.
One of the most severe health effects associated with chemical exposure is lung cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. behind only lung cancer. However, despite the fact that fine particles reduce the amount of effective chemicals that reach the lungs, they can still reach the skin and become lodged in the lungs. Over time, they will accumulate in the airways, resulting in the release of irritating compounds into the air. The longer these compounds stay in the air, the more likely they will cause allergic reactions and irritate the skin, nose, eyes, and throat. It is important to note that the majority of people who contract non-Hodgkins lymphoma are also exposed to some of the same agents that cause cancer in humans, so the link between pollution and human diseases is strong.
With all this in mind, it becomes clear that the links between climate change and health risks must be taken seriously. Recent studies have shown that sea level rise may increase asthma risk among the elderly, as well as causing a number of other health problems. Also, researchers have found that ozone in the atmosphere is harmful to human development in general, especially of infants. As we can see, the connection between climate change and health risks is very real, but it is likely that more research will uncover many more impacts. For now, the best you can do is to prepare for the changes that are bound to come, ensuring that you and your loved ones remain as healthy as possible.