Doctors: It's time to stop ignoring climate change health impact

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Half of nation's doctors come together to issue stark warning about climate change impact on human health.

Half of the Nation's doctors have come together to issue a stark and in depth report highlighting how climate change is ruining our health that can no longer be ignored.

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The report, titled Medical Alert! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health, details the physical, mental and environmental consequences of climate change, based on solid research that should concern everyone.

Mona Sarfaty, MD, director of the consortium and professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, said in a news release: "Physicians are on the front lines and see the impacts in exam rooms. What's worse is that the harms are felt most by children, the elderly, Americans with low income or chronic illnesses, and people in communities of color."

The 28 page report is the result of real-life physician stories from every part of the country and from 11 medical societies and draws on peer reviewed reports including The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2016.

By Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, Lead Author, American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy on Climate Change; Pediatric Associates of Alexandria shares a story about her son Isaac, taken to the emergency room during a heat wave in Washington DC.

Isaac had collapsed and was taken to the hospital on his last day at band camp when the heat index had reached 120 degrees.

By Dr. Claude Tellis, Vice Chairman, Commission on Environmental Health, National Medical Association (NMA); Retired Pulmonologist shares stories of flooding in Louisiana that left residents depressed, anxious and without life-saving medications and children so stressed they needed counseling.

How climate change is destroying our health

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It isn’t just melting ice caps and Polar bears affected by climate change the group says. They say most people aren’t even aware of the the spread of disease, respiratory health impact, mental health ramifications and trauma from violent weather patterns brought about by greenhouse gas emissions that are cause worsening health.

Researchers warned us in 2014 about the re-emergence of infectious diseases that have only been seen rarely including Bubonic plague and more that have the potential to become pandemic.

Hotter weather destroys health in several ways, yet just 32 percent of people can name one way our warming climate affects health.

Climate change means:

  • Longer allergy seasons
  • More cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments
  • Injury and death from violent weather events
  • Contaminated food and water that carry infectious diseases
  • Insect proliferation that can spread Lyme disease and Zika virus
  • Increased depression and anxiety from the damage caused by climate change
  • Increased risk of heart disease and recurrent heart attacks
  • Toxic algae outbreaks have also been a concern that could impact human health and the economy, warned by researchers in a 2011 study.

The physicians highlight the immediate health effects of reducing heat trapping pollution in Northeast states from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Nitin Damle, MD, MS, MACP, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and founder of South County Internal Medicine Inc. in Wakefield, Rhode Island said "Doctors work to prevent smoking and help patients quit, because smoking harms health and increases the risk of cancer or lung disease. We see efforts to combat climate change in the same way: they will improve health today and reduce health risks down the road,"

The report also includes a map showing the health impact of climate change in different areas.

The group is urging a switch to clean energy to immediately mitigate the ill health effects of climate change, which they say is entirely doable. They plan is to deliver the message to Congress to encourage less use of fossil fuels and clean energy.

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