As Climate Changes, Human Health Could Decline

By City News Service

Heat-related illnesses and deaths due to rising temperatures will likely increase, as will the number of people suffering from asthma and respiratory diseases due to worsening pollution, over the coming decades due to climate change, according to a report released Monday by the county Department of Public Health.

The report, part of the county’s “Climate and Health Series,” also found that more concentrated pollutants will affect local drinking water supplies.

Among the findings included in the report are:

— Temperatures in the Los Angeles area will increase by up to five degrees by 2050, leading to longer and more frequent heat waves in inland areas;

— The threat of flooding will increase in coastal areas, thanks to anticipated sea-level rise of five to 24 inches by 2050; and

— West Nile virus cases will likely increase as mosquitoes move into new areas.

“Climate change is arguably the biggest health threat of this century,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health. “We are already experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, and it is expected that conditions will worsen over time. We have to take action now in order to lessen the effects of climate change that we will experience here in Los Angeles County.

“I’m proud to say that my department is already implementing changes that will help mitigate the effects of climate change, such as reducing carbon emissions associated with our facilities and operations, and that we are building the capacity of our staff to monitor the health impacts of climate change.”

According to the first report, hotter temperatures anticipated in the coming decades will mean faster “chemical reactions that create ground-level ozone, the main component of smog. Ground-level ozone is linked to asthma, bronchitis, heart attack and premature death.”

The report also noted that rising temperatures will not only worsen the continuing drought, but threaten the quality of water that is available.

“Pollutants already existing in the water supply become more concentrated in smaller bodies of water, increasing the risk of water-borne illnesses like diarrheal diseases,” according to the report.

The report notes that residents can help make a difference in climate change “by making easy changes to their homes and habits.” It includes 10 steps for reducing climate change:

—replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light or light-emitting diode bulbs, which use less energy;

—recycling cans, paper, plastic and other materials;

— walking or biking at least two days a week instead of using a vehicle;

— regulating water use in the home;

— buying produce from local farmers to reduce the effects of long-range transportation from farms to markets;

— planting trees to provide shade to homes;

— adjusting home thermostats 10 to 15 percent lower in winter and higher in summer to save energy and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions;

— working a modified schedule to avoid sitting in traffic or switching to carpools or public transit;

— eating more vegetables to reduce the global demand for livestock, which are significant sources of greenhouse gases; and

— encouraging friends and neighbors take part in the effort to reduce climate change.

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August 21, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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