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Climate crisis wreaks havoc on health

The impact of climate change is not only evident due to the increase in global temperature and more intense natural phenomena, the damage to health is already visible: there are premature deaths from heat, less willingness to carry out physical activity and infectious diseases with greater epidemic potential .

The Lancet launched the “Countdown” effort six years ago, an international collaboration to monitor the health consequences of the changing climate, in which scientists from 43 academic institutions, including UN agencies, participate.

In this 2021 report: Code Red for a healthy future, experts point out that the new highs in temperatures during 2020 exposed millions of people to extreme heat waves, the population of countries with the lowest income being the most affected, as it cannot access cooling mechanisms, and agricultural workers are also highly exposed.

Exposure to extreme heat “represents an acute danger to health”, mainly in those over 65 years of age and in infants. According to the study, 345 thousand heat deaths occurred in 2019.

The report also points out that “high temperatures can reduce the frequency of physical activity, its duration and the desire to exercise.”

Added to this is the development of ideal situations for the spread of infectious diseases: “Changing environmental conditions are also increasing the suitability for the transmission of many pathogens transmitted by water, air, food and vectors,” he warns.

For example, the time frame for malaria transmission now lasts 39% longer; The epidemic potential of dengue, Zika and Chikungunya, the vector of which is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also increased.

A similar scenario was found for cholera, which causes about 100,000 deaths a year, “there is greater environmental suitability for this disease”, and other bacteria that cause gastroenteritis and sepsis.

Just last June, it is estimated that more than a thousand people died in the northeastern United States and Canada as a result of the unusual heat wave, for some the high temperatures are unbearable. Death Valley, California, has reported 54.4 degrees Celsius for two years in a row, and according to the World Meteorological Organization, July 2021 was the hottest month ever on record.

With climate change there is also an increased risk of malnutrition, droughts are longer and crops yield much less.

Extreme air temperatures also contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, especially among the elderly. In the heat wave that Europe suffered in the summer of 2003, for example, there was an excess of mortality estimated at 70 thousand deaths.

High temperatures also cause increased levels of ozone and other air pollutants that aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Pollen and other allergen levels are also higher in extreme heat. They can cause asthma, a condition that affects about 300 million people. The rising temperatures that are taking place are expected to raise that burden.

Worldwide, the number of weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1970s. Each year these disasters cause more than 60,000 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause 250,000 deaths annually.

PAL

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