Climate Change - The Effects On Our Air and Water - Part 1

Uploaded by orchdept on 21.02.2011

When you mention climate change
people think of melting glaciers,
polar bears losing their habitats,
and droughts in Africa,
people just don't realize
that climate change
is already affecting our health
in cities throughout America.
It's becoming more and more evident
that climate change adversely impacts public health
on a very local level.
Increased severe weather,
air pollution,
water contamination, air and insect borne diseases,
heart and respiratory diseases
heat and stress related illnesses,
and social migration,
are just some
of the health issues
with climate change.
Climate change and health issues transcend borders
hence the need to address and coordinate responses to these issues at local, regional,
and global levels.
The Orange County Health Department has produced three informative video presentations that will
help you understand how climate change directly affects your health.
Because being prepared is our best defense.
The following short presentation focuses on how climate change is affecting the quality
of the very air we breathe, and the water we depend on;
how it's increasing the dangers of asthma
respiratory disorders,
water-borne and heat
related illnesses.
To better inform us on the effects of climate change
on our air and water quality
now here's my good friend
Dr. George Luber, the Associate Director of the Climate Change Program
the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the (CDC).
One of the least apprecited and perhaps the most insidious impact that climate change has on health
is its impact on air quality.
This happens in a number of different ways
um... both directly through impacts of uh... temperature extremes
and this mostly has to deal with uh... the formation of ground level ozone. We all see
ozone alerts in our cities.
And ozone is a chemical that is produced
through a reaction of
certain chemicals that are produced by burning carbons,
fuel and whatnot. But also it works with higher temperatures so the higher the temperature
is in a in a city or locale
of the higher the formation of ozone would be. It has a
pretty significant impact upon health on days when there's high ozone. The amount of people that
go to emergency visits the amount of people buying prescriptions for
respiratory conditions increases dramatically.
But climate change also has a more subtle effect upon air quality
through its stimulation of plant growth. Ragweed is very common allergy that people suffer from
through exposure to to the pollen of the plant
Climate change through its impact upon temperature
and also the elevated amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere serve to stimulate plant growth
and produce more pollen,
so in areas of that have
locally higher
carbon dioxide concentration such as cities where there's a
high amount of cars
and and ignition sources
we noticed that the pollen counts actually increased dramatically.
A recent study looking at thirty years of temperature data
pollen data in Italy showed a dramatic increase in not only in the amount of pollen being
produced in cities but also the amount of illnesses being reported for them.
Pollen is a is a significant factor for health because it's one of the main triggers
for asthma attacks. And athsma is a very
important cause of illness or category of illness
especially in children. It's the second leading cause of chronic disease in children
and it accounts for a tremendous amount of health care expenditures in our country every year.
The impact of air pollution on populations
is felt disproportionately
in certain populations the very young and the very old
are more susceptible to becoming sick
from exposure to air pollutants such as ozone
and some of the smaller particles that become airborne because of
of say drier conditions et cetera. It's important to to keep an eye on those
in our community that are most susceptible to these conditions in order to develop
strategies to help protect them.
One of the more unexpected ways in which climate change is affecting air pollution
is through exposure to
some of the aerosolized or airborne toxins produced by harmful algal blooms.
You might recall those as being red tides. Red tides events in Florida
are often associated with a
specific species of algae
that produces a toxin
that when breathed
can develop a pretty serious
respiratory irritations. Those walking along the beach during a red tide
might often uh... experience a scratchy throat or difficulty breathing. And this is a result
of the toxins produced by the algae.
Climate change
through increased temperatures and increased pulses of water that deliver nutrients to these algal blooms
is contributing to the frequency of red ties in Florida.
The warming that
climate change brings to our planet
serves to increase the amount of water vapor that can be held in the atmosphere at any
one time. As air temperature increases so does its capacity to hold water
and what this does it intensifies
what we call a hydrologic cycle
or the cycle for which water is evaporated held in the atmosphere.
This alters rainfall patterns, alters patterns of drought and
in some cases so severely that that it impacts large areas for longer periods of
Drought not only a affects our ability to grow food
and to provide water for cities but it also effects of natural ecosystems like forests.
In periods of drought and
in areas like the the mountain west
and even in the southeast we experience more frequent wildfires. Wildfires are significant
on the populations through the degraded air quality and through smoke that that is produced.
We have a noticeable spike
in visits to the emergency department for respiratory conditions during wildfire events
and this is a phenomenon that is
becoming much
with climate change.
One of the most obvious impacts that climate change brings
is an increased frequency and intensity
of heat waves. These are significant events for cities as was evidenced in the
1995 Chicago heat wave.
We had over 700 people die
in about an 8 day period.
In europe in 2003
a heat wave that lasted greater than 10 days was estimated to have killed more than
40,000 people
in Europe alone.
These often are associated with
bad air quality and stagnant air masses
that allowed the pollution to build up in the locality
contributing to the high amount of deaths.
One of the more dramatic ways in which climate change impacts public health
is through severe storms and heavy rainfall events. This doesn't just affect people in
a direct sense through injury and flooding
but it also impacts the quality and quantity of the water that we drink.
Climate change is going to bring serious challenges to
our ability to deliver clean and safe water.
Heavy rainfall events as we heat up the atmosphere
the turnover in the time it takes to evaporate and precipitate water
What we're noticing and what we expect to see is
heavy rainfall events. Storms where we get more than three inches of rain
in a location per day
are going to intensify. And these give serious challenges to our ability to handle
that water. Cities off have developed water distribution and water control systems
that can handle the weather of the 1900's.
We're going to be challenged by having to deal with the weather of the 21st
This means
being able to handle
excess stormwater, which
transports contaminants such as lawn fertilizer and all the residue from the from
motor vehicle traffic
into our waterways.
and also our ability to deliver clean safe drinking water.
Climate change
will act on a on a number of different pathways that will affect water quality.
Water-borne outbreaks in the United States are clearly associated with heavy rainfall
Two-thirds of the water-borne disease outbreaks that CDC has tracked
in the last sixty years were associated with rainfall above the eightieth percentile.
Half of those events were
associated with rainfall above the ninetieth percentile.
Meaning the heavier the rainfall the more likely we will have a
water-borne disease outbreak. Because our water distribution systems are challenged
by the excess amount of water.
As Dr. Luber pointed out climate change will have a direct effect on air and water
The increased potential of asthma attacks,
water-borne, and heat related illnesses are all health conditions that are affected by
climate change.
Increased storms and wildfires will also have a substantial impact on our health contributing
to air and water borne disease as well as the quality of our drinking water.
The Orange County Health Department is working to prepare for and counter these effects
by carpooling and making use of cooling facilities.
But the more you know and understand about the immediate effects of climate change
on your health
safer and healthier you will be.