Global Warming

White House Report Outlines 6 Ways That Climate Change Will Affect Americans’ Health

In a new health report, the administration outlines six major health issues that Americans could face because of rising global temperatures and its related effects. Some of these concerns—including an increase in heat strokes and the spread of infectious diseases—are already being felt in regions across the country.

1) Asthma attacks will worsen as ozone levels increase.

As global temperatures rise, concentrations of ground-level ozone, a pollutant, will increase. For people with asthma—especially children—that could mean more trips to the emergency room, according to a study of the New York City metro region.

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Scientists project that ozone concentrations in the New York City metropolitan region will increase as a result of climate change, driving up the number of ozone-related emergency room visits for asthma in the area.

2) Lung and heart illnesses will rise because of more frequent wildfires.

Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of wildfires in the American West and Southwest. That will in turn increase the exposure of Americans’ lungs to harmful smoke, adding to the risk of heart- and lung-related hospitalizations.

3) Infectious diseases will spread as the climate warms.

A grab bag of vector-borne diseases—including Lyme, dengue fever, West Nile virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever—are expected to spread across different regions of the United States. Warming temperatures make life more comfortable for the pests like ticks and mosquitoes that spread infectious diseases.

4) Allergies will increase as pollen flourishes.

More frost-free days and warmer air temperatures will likely boost pollen concentrations and extend pollen seasons. As a result, pollen-related allergies and asthma episodes will rise, resulting in “diminished productivity and lost school days,” the White House says.

5) Flooding-related hazards will occur more often as rainfall levels rise.

Flash floods and heavy rain events are projected to increase across the country. Severe flooding not only creates immediate safety risks, it increases outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

6) Heat stroke will become more common as summers intensify.

Heat waves will become more frequent and severe because of rising temperatures, amplifying the risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. This health problem is already being seen, the White House said, noting that many cities, including St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati, have already seen dramatic increases in heat wave-related deaths.

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From 1999 through 2009, extreme heat exposure caused more than 7,800 deaths in the United States. As climate change causes temperatures to continue to rise, heat waves are expected to become more frequent and severe in the coming decades.

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