URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript111014.html

NLM Director’s Comments Transcript

Health Impacts of Climate Change: 11/10/2014

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.listen

Climate change may bring an array of health challenges in the U.S. and should be squarely addressed, finds a study and accompanying editorial recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research, which uniquely combines previous quantitative research on climate changes’ health impact with large-scale climate data and models, suggests the following changes will or have occurred in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, and ocean acidification.

The study’s five authors find overall temperature and a frequency of days with heat of more than 100 degrees will increase by 2100.

The authors add:

  • precipitation from the heaviest one percent of rain increased 20 percent in the past century while total rainfall increased seven percent.
  • the global mean sea level has risen more in the past 100 years than in the two previous millennia. The rise in sea levels in the next 100 years may be more than the past century.
  • oceans have become .1 more acidic since the start of the industrial age.

The authors suggest within the next 35 years many U.S. cities may experience three times the current average number of days hotter than 90 degrees.

The study’s authors emphasize some of the adverse health impacts from heat related disorders (fostered by climate change) may include:

  • heat stress
  • economic loss because of reduced work capacity
  • respiratory disorders, such as asthma and allergies from increased exposure to fine particulate pollutants
  • an increase in infectious disease
  • and an increase in child gastrointestinal diseases.

The authors also project changing weather may reduce crop yields and increase plant diseases, which may result in increased food insecurity.

The study’s authors add since mental health disorders are associated with human and natural disasters, they suggest hotter summers may be associated with increased posttraumatic stress disorder and depression across the general population.

The authors write (and we quote) ‘Evidence over the past 20 years indicates that climate change can be associated with adverse health outcomes’ (end of quote).

The authors conclude (and we quote) ‘ strategies to reduce
climate change and avert the related adverse effects are necessary’ (end of quote).

An accompanying editorial co-written by Howard Bauchner M.D. (JAMA’s editor) notes the study’s findings underscore the need to squarely address the potential health impacts of climate change. The editorial notes there is a pressing social and professional need to address climate change among physicians and citizens.

The editorial’s authors conclude (and we quote): ‘It is critical to recognize that climate change poses the same threat to health as the lack of sanitation, clean water, and pollution did in the early 20th century. Understanding and characterizing this threat and educating the medical community, public, and policy makers are critical if the health of the world’s population is to continue to improve during the latter half of the 21st century’ (end of quote).

Meanwhile, some helpful background information about climate change and health (provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is available in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s climate change health topic page. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides more adverse health impacts of climate change in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s climate change health topic page.

Regarding the study’s predictions about the impact of climate change on food production and security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviews how climate changes currently impact U.S. agriculture in the ‘specific conditions’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s climate change health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s climate change health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about climate change as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s climate change health topic page type ‘climate change’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Climate change (National Library of Medicine).’

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Please email Dr. Lindberg anytime at: NLMDirector@nlm.nih.gov

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.