Climate change affects health – Tennessee Lookout
A rise in autoinflammatory diseases, skin conditions and even cancer could be the result of creeping global climate change, medical professionals said at a seminar held Monday by Vanderbilt University Medical Center as part of a series on health equity.
“I think it’s important to take a step back and just recognize that climate change is impacting every organ system in our body. But beyond that, climate change acts as a threat aggravator that not only drives disease, but also amplifies food and water insecurity, conflict, infrastructure failure and inequality,” said Eva Rawlings. Parker, assistant professor of dermatology at VUMC.
Using COVID-19 as an example, speakers explained how global migration allows diseases to spread around the world and how climate change will impact the spread of vector-borne diseases.
“So things that we may not think are endemic to the United States — like leishmaniasis, dengue, or other vector-borne diseases — will likely be knocking on our door soon enough due to both global warming and climate impacts, but also likely because of migration,” Parker said.
In addition to disease, climate change and associated pollution affect the daily lives of Tennesseans. For example, increased temperatures and exposure to hot days affect both sleep and exercise and have been associated with low birth weight.
Parker said he has seen an increase in the effects of climate change on his patients. Along with increased insect activity leading to more disease from bites, carbon dioxide air pollution has worsened allergies.
“I see things like heat and air pollution aggravating many autoinflammatory skin diseases,” Parker said, adding that air pollution has also contributed to increased cancer rates.
When patients are told about the effects of climate change on their health, “they are often surprised that it directly affects their health,” she added.
The healthcare industry is also partly responsible for climate change, one commenter said.
“Hospital waste is a growing concern,” said Ariella Shuster, circular equipment manager at Philips, a global technology company.
Climate change will continue to worsen unless immediate action is taken, speakers said, and called on lawmakers, residents and local governments to work together.
“If one good thing has come out of our experience with the pandemic, it’s the fact that we can get an entire society to respond to a big problem,” said Christa Brelsford, research scientist in the Division of Geospatial Sciences and human security at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. .
“The extent of the impact that COVID had on all lives in America was profound, and it worked to some degree. And if we have this level of response to climate change, we can change the future of our planet,” she added.