Climate change is a global problem, as the climate becomes warmer, the incidence of chronic lung diseases like asthma, COPD, and respiratory disease is set to increase.
Asthma is a very common and serious respiratory disease, which affects around 7 million people worldwide and may be equally as widespread in future.
The effects of climate change on Asthma, and COPD, Respiratory
COPD is a well-known chronic respiratory disease that is estimated to cause $12.3 billion in US health care costs. COPD mainly affects middle-aged and older adults, and a substantial portion of the population suffers from asthmatic conditions.
There are several ways in which climate change will directly impact COPD:
- Climate change will decrease air temperatures that trigger seasonal allergies, thereby exacerbating asthma. This effect is particularly pronounced in temperate regions such as Europe, where the average annual temperature drops by 10°C. As a result, cold air masses will blanket cities, exacerbating the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
- The transmission of pollutants into the atmosphere will increase in Europe with climate change. As a result, cold air masses will blanket cities, exacerbating symptoms of seasonal allergies. In addition to increasing airborne pollution levels and increasing its persistence in urban areas through precipitation variations, climate change also increases the likelihood that these pollutants will be deposited directly on human lungs via coal-fired power plants.
- The “greenhouse effect” caused by increasing atmospheric CO 2 concentrations has many negative effects on humans and ecosystems around the world, including modifying plant growth patterns, salinization, soil acidification, water quality, biodiversity, and so forth — all of which have negative effects on human health and do not correlate with greenhouse gas concentrations.
Outdoor and indoor air pollution affects respiratory health
The effects of climate change on respiratory health have received substantial attention in recent years. However, the extent to which climate change is responsible for morbidity and mortality associated with asthmatic disorders remains unclear.
Most research has been limited to short-term exposure and has focused on indoor or outdoor environments, rather than on their interplay. For example, most studies that have investigated the effects of outdoor air pollution (e.g., vehicle exhaust) have focused on the effects of outdoor air pollution alone. In contrast, most studies that have investigated the effects of climate change (i.e., temperature changes) have considered both indoor and outdoor air pollution together.
Future research should explore this interplay between climate change and other environmental factors (e.g., respiratory viruses or allergens). In addition, it is important to further elucidate how specific exposure conditions influence asthma outcomes during acute exacerbations with a focus on those who are at greatest risk due to poor socioeconomic status or inadequate housing conditions
When dealing with climate change, it is also critical to consider that exposure to environmental pollutants correlates positively with outcomes such as chronic lung disease and premature death.
Climate Change and Allergies
Everyone knows the concept of climate change, it’s a very real threat and one that is increasing faster than many people expect.
How do we address this issue?
It’s a big problem. That’s why we need to get our heads together and figure out what are the things we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change on respiratory diseases in the world.
A recent study by the University of Montana, “Climate Change and Allergies: The Importance for Allergens” suggests that climate change could have a direct impact on asthma as well as respiratory illnesses caused by allergens.
It also suggests that there could be an indirect effect because rising temperatures will increase air-conditioning usage making it more likely that allergens will be released into the atmosphere.
What are some ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change on respiratory health?
Some ways include:
– Reduce greenhouse gas emissions – Improve ventilation in buildings – Mitigate exposure to allergens in foods – Consider energy efficiency measures, such as energy conservation measures – Improve indoor air quality – Use less toxic cleaning agents
These are all things that can be done now or in the near future through adopting new sustainable technologies (e.g., solar panels), improving ventilation in buildings (to reduce particle pollution), reducing exposure to allergens (which are found in many foods, especially dairy products) and using less toxic cleaning agents instead of more toxic ones.
What are some other ways you might think about addressing this issue?
Resources for Asthma and Respiratory Climate Change
The simple fact is that climate change will be a major public health problem for decades to come. The number of people with COPD, asthma, and chronic respiratory diseases is projected to increase by 50% in the coming decades. Climate change exacerbates the risks of these conditions by promoting air pollution, drying up water supplies, and increasing humidity levels.
This puts us squarely in the crosshairs of COPD (and I might add, asthma). COPD relates to the 4th Commandment: “You shall not take a life” and while it may be easy to say that, there is no such thing as an “easy life”.
For example, consider that there are over 100 medications available for treating bronchitis and emphysema. Some are just plain old cough medicines while others are highly effective drugs like corticosteroids. The situation with asthma is much direr: just as there are different types of bronchitis (e.g., acute exacerbation), there are different types of asthma attacks (e.g., persistent). There are various treatments for both conditions but it’s not an easy path to walk through this mountain – you can get help from your doctor or you can try self-treating until your symptoms go away on their own – but then again maybe you have a tendency towards sudden or severe attacks…
The point here is that without any doubt climate change poses a very serious threat to respiratory health and we need all hands on deck to fight it effectively. One recent study found that among older adults with COPD, those who smoked 5 cigarettes per day were approximately 2x more likely to die prematurely compared with non-smokers (the risk ratio was 1.5).
Take Care Of Your Lung
It’s important to take care of your lung function. In this climate change condition, it’s important to do a Spirometry test regularly to know better about your lung function.
Asthma and COPD treatment requires you to manage symptoms by constantly monitoring how well your lungs are functioning.
To help improve the care of asthma on a long-lasting basis, it’s imperative for those who are diagnosed with moderate-to-severe asthma to make sure they consistently stay on top of how their lungs function and what may be making breathing difficult for them.
Maintaining a record of how asthma is being managed on an ongoing basis, will always remain more easily manageable because there will always be reference points against which to compare as circumstances change over time. This means that overall symptoms can become far more tolerable.
Climate change is not only going to affect the health of people around the world, but it is also going to have a significant impact on almost every aspect of our lives. A frequent question in my (and many others’) inbox is “what can I do about climate change?” The answer to this question has been obvious for quite some time.
Many people are aware that it would be a good idea to reduce their carbon footprints, buy more energy-efficient appliances, and take control of their own carbon footprint by actively participating in green initiatives such as driving electric vehicles. However, few are aware of a much greater risk associated with climate change: breathing polluted air.
A recent study has shown that exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in the air “are associated with a higher risk of asthma attacks in children and adolescents.” Even if it is not directly related to climate change, there are still ways how we can minimize our exposure to airborne toxins while commuting as well as at home.
One way is by using an electric vehicle. Cleaning your car and driving it regularly is a great way to lower your carbon footprint and live a greener lifestyle.
However, the distance you travel by your car can still be an issue if you live outside an ideal commuting environment (i.e., one where pollution doesn’t significantly affect your commute). By owning an electric vehicle you are able to cut down on the amount of fuel you use during your commute, helping reduce congestion in cities as well as reducing overall environmental pollution (as opposed to simply turning off your car or deactivating its engine).