New Research Links Climate Change With Prevalent Diseases

The scientific community has compiled further unequivocal evidence to prove climate change’s effect on people’s health.

2016 was the hottest year in recorded history, and 2017 is currently on track to break heat records as well.

Scientists have warned for years that rising temperatures and sea levels would lead to destructive weather, food shortages and even the spread of deadly diseases. Two recent reports suggest that climate change is already causing an uptick in numerous conditions and has the potential to exacerbate many more.

Earlier this month, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health released “Climate Change Is Harming Our Health,” a “medical alert” report that outlines the seemingly endless consequences of climate change, specifically in regards to mental and physical health.

The report states that ticks can now be found in 46% of US counties compared to 30% in 1998, putting more people at risk of Lyme disease, which is carried by the insects. Fecal bacteria and other contaminants have a larger presence in crop fields thanks to the increase of floods and downpours. These crops, which include corn, peanuts, grains and fruits, are therefore more vulnerable to mold and its various toxins.

Drought conditions have triggered wildfires all throughout the south, mid-west and southwest, with over 650,000 acres burned so far this year. In 2008, several counties of North Carolina were impacted by a disastrous wildfire. Researchers determined that after the wildfire, there was a spike in ER visits for heart disease and respiratory conditions in these counties.

"We want to get the message out that climate change is affecting people's health right now,” said, Dr. Mona Sarfaty, director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health.

Fellow consortium member and lead author of the climate change policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. Samantha Ahdoot revealed in the report that her interest in climate change arose after her son, 9, fainted during summer camp and was sent to the ER. Meteorologists have predicted heat waves of approximately 120 degrees to become more frequent in the coming years.

Other conditions that will likely become more prevalent due to climate change include asthma, emphysema and anything caused by insects or germs, which thrive in hot, humid temperatures.

According to CNN, another report released this week draws a possible link between climate change and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands found that for every 1-degree Celsius increase in the US between 1996 and 2009, there was a 4% increase in the development of diabetes. On a worldwide scale, the development of glucose intolerance rose by 0.17% per 1-degree Celsius increase in that time frame. More research is needed to understand this correlation but the team hypothesized that a major factor might be a type of body fat called brown adipose tissue, or brown fat.

"The function of brown fat tissue is to burn fat to generate heat, which is important to prevent a decline in body temperature during cold exposure,” said lead researcher Lisanne Blauw. “Therefore, we hypothesize that brown fat plays a role in the mechanism underlying the association between outdoor temperature and diabetes. In warmer climates, brown fat may be less activated, which may causally lead to insulin resistance and diabetes."

The report added that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks during heat waves.

Composed by members of 11 US medical societies, “Climate Change is Harming Our Health” strives to raise public awareness of the harm caused by burning dirty fossil fuels. The consortium urged lawmakers to phase out this practice in exchange for clean, renewable energy if they want medical bills to stop piling up all across the US.

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