Climate change is worsening health and disparities: What can be done? – USA TODAY

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Climate Change

Experts have called climate change the “greatest global threat to health.” Extreme heat and pollution are linked to many conditions including asthma and heart disease — and heat kills more people than hurricanes or floods each year.New report: Researchers across the globe collaborate to study climate and health in an annual report, the Lancet medical journals’ “countdown” on health and climate change. In this year’s U.S. portion of the report, released Tuesday, scientists break down research on the health impacts of a warming climate and outline policy recommendations, focusing on health equity.Why this matters: Experts have long called for health and equity to be central to the climate change fight. For example, heart disease can be caused by particulate matter pollution, according to the American Heart Association, and long-term exposure to these microscopic, inhalable pollutants causes asthma in children, the American Thoracic Society says. Who is most vulnerable: Communities of color, which are often home to disproportionate fossil fuel infrastructure; frontline or coastal communities; older adults; children and infants; outdoor laborers; people with underlying health conditions; and those who are pregnant. “Health is at the mercy of our global fossil fuel addiction,” said Dr. Renee Salas, an emergency medicine physician and Yerby Fellow at the Harvard University’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, in a media briefing on the findings.Here are highlights from the report and what scientists are calling for.Air pollution is killing AmericansAir pollution from fossil fuel burning has been found to harm every organ in the body, research shows. According to data from the report, particulate matter caused 32,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2020, and 37% of those were “directly related to fossil fuels,” the authors wrote, noting those could be underestimates.Air pollution needs to be seen as a risk factor for poor health that “can be modified” to improve heart and lung health, the authors suggest.More on climate and risks:’Inequitable burden’: Not all Americans are affected the sameThe problems don’t impact U.S. communities equally, and people of color are more likely to experience harmful pollution and heat. That’s beca …

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