Climate change and human health

A report Wednesday by a federal interagency working group identifies 11 areas of human health that climate change is impacting or could impact in the future . They range from asthma and allergies to weather-related deaths and zoonotic diseases (think swine flu).

The 80-page white paper, “A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change,” examines both what is known and what health officials say needs to be studied about the impact of changing climate on diseases and health. The report was produced by researchers at a alphabet soup of federal agencies including the CDC, EPA, NOAA and NIH formed in 2009.

“This white paper articulates, in a concrete way, that human beings are vulnerable in many ways to the health effects of climate change,” said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which led the effort. “It lays out both what we know and what we need to know about these effects in a way that will allow the health research community to bring its collective knowledge to bear on solving these problems.”

For example, the report notes that respiratory allergies and diseases could become more common due to increases in pollen as growing seasons change. Cancer cases could increase with more exposure to ultraviolet radiation as well from the potential increases in exposure to chemicals and toxins brought about climate changes. Heat related illnesses and deaths can be expected as well as extreme weather events such as floods, wildfire, and hurricanes, the white paper stated.

The report was released Wednesday in anticipation on Earth Day on Thursday, April 22.