Saturday, 26 January 2013

Climate Change and Human Health

Images of melting of glaciers, isolated polar bears, raising temperature, distorted lands and even of drowning world swoops across when we hear (or Google) the term- climate change. Although almost everyone today is familiar with this bigger picture or the large scale impacts of climate change, we still are missing on the finer grains. We consider climate change as a distant phenomenon that is affecting the earth but is still to touch us on an individual level. The consequences of climate change are not limited to sea level  and melting of glaciers but it also have direct as well as indirect impacts on human health; some of which are already apparent. A 2008 survey of local public health directors in the United States found that a majority of the respondents have already identified existing public health impacts of climate change within their jurisdictions.[1]
Climate change is likely to cause extreme weather events cyclone, flood, fire, draught; etc. which may cause Possible fatalities and injuries and Damage human communities. 
Heat Waves are expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Water and Vector-borne diseases are projected to increase in no. Climate is one of several factors that influence the distribution of vector borne and zoonotic diseases (VBZD) such as Lyme disease, Hantavirus, West Nile virus, and malaria.  Climate change is also likely to influence the production of pollen and other allergens associated with asthma and allergies. There is evidence that climate change may slow down the repair of the ozone layer, extending the risk associated with increased UV exposure. [2] One possible direct impact of climate change on cancer may be through increases in exposure to toxic chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer following heavy rainfall and by increased volatilization of chemicals under conditions of increased temperature.
These are only some of the direct impacts of climate change; it may also affect human health in many other ways. Climate change is likely to increase the costs of production of food through potential effects of increased extreme events, particularly reduced rainfall and availability of water associated with drought and long periods of drying climatic conditions Without additional adaptive measures this may result in a decrease in general health and well-being and increases in diet-related conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Also, Increase in the number and severity of extreme events without any further adaptation, will almost certainly result in reduced access to essential goods and services, including medical treatment. Changes in climate also projected to have implications for occupational health and safety. Changes in distribution of bacteria, insects, plants and animals can have environmental impacts on water, land and air quality that have flow on health effects. Climate change is expected to cause mental health problem as well.
Apparently, changing climate possesses many threats to human health that vary from allergic reactions due to air pollution to serious cancer due to exposure of UV light, from physical health to mental health, from heat waves to increased vector-borne diseases. It may alter the weather pattern and affect the food supply. There is still time to adapt. Adaptation to climate change is already taking place, but on a limited basis. Societies have a long record of adapting to the impacts of weather and climate through a range of practices that include crop diversification, irrigation, water management, disaster risk management, and insurance. But climate change poses novel risks often outside the range of experience, such as impacts related to drought, heat waves, and accelerated glacier retreat and hurricane intensity. (IPCC, 2007)
Although specific limits will vary by health outcome and region, fundamental constraints exist in low-income countries where adaptation will partially depend on development pathways in the public-health, water, agriculture, transport, energy and housing sectors. Therefore, adaptation strategies should be designed in the context of development, environment, and health policies.

[1]  (American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), April 2011)

[2]  (Jeff Spickett, Helen Brown and Dianne Katscherian, 2008

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