There is always plenty of talk about the environmental and economic benefits of reducing carbon emissions. However, the impact on human health is sometimes swept under the rug.
Proof that a reduction in greenhouse gases could improve health and well-being should be an incentive to do more to reduce emissions. As modern research shows pollutant particles pose a big risk to many people across the world, and the problems don’t stop there.
The main area of interest with greenhouse gasses and health care is with air quality and breathing.
Statistics show that as of 2014 approximately 57 million Americans lived in counties that did not meet the national standards for air quality. As a result, there are grave consequences for ongoing illnesses and health complications.
It is impossible to underestimate the risk associated with poor air quality. America only needs to look to Asia to see the impact that smog can have on a population. It is all about the particle matter that comes from the burning of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases from coal and petrol emissions with particles less than 10 micrometers in size are dangerous. They can enter the lungs and bloodstream as people breath in the polluted air.
Greenhouse gases from industry and traffic are mostly to blame. These particles are dangerous, but they are not the smallest. Some are less than 2.5 micrometers and can have a significant impact on respiratory and cardiovascular health.
An increase in pollutants and decreases in air quality mean a rise in respiratory illness, lung damage and general breathing issues. Citizens may deal with a blockage in the lungs, decreased air capacity and function and aggravated conditions such as asthma.
In fact, more than 34 million Americans have received a diagnosis of asthma. In addition to this, there are also concerns for heart health once pollutants enter the bloodstream.
There is the potential for heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Naturally, all of this comes with a risk of premature death.
Increases in greenhouse gasses and climate change mean dangerous temperature changes.
The issues of air pollutants in greenhouse gases are one of the more immediate problems here. On a wider scale, there are also problems with temperature changes through climate change. As temperatures rise, the climate and living conditions can change to such a degree that many cannot cope.
There is a change that we will see an increase in heat-related deaths. Heat stroke, dehydration, and cardiovascular dysfunction can all arise from high-temperature changes and heat waves.
Some vulnerable people are less able to regulate body temperatures, like pregnant women, children and those with certain illnesses. This puts them at even greater risk.
Temperature changes can also mean a risk of vector-borne diseases via mosquitoes, ticks, and another insect. It is much easier for diseases to thrive and spread in warmer climates.
Furthermore, additional factors like cultural changes, poor pest control and decreased access to health care can play their part.
It is important to look at health risks from greenhouses gasses on a much wider scale.
The health issues related to greenhouse gases go beyond these temperature changes and pollutants. There is also the problem of access to food and water in developing nations. Droughts in agricultural areas limit crop yields and water supplies. There is an increased risk of poor access to basic needs as world temperatures rise.
Furthermore, there is the risk to health and safety that comes from changing weather. Storms, floods and other consequences may be knock-on effects of climate change, but they carry significant risks. How do the vulnerable cope with these events?
The risk of weather phenomena and instability affects the developed world as much as the developing one. Another first world issue that is easily overlooked is the potential for mental health concerns linked to climate change.
There is a chain reaction with the health risks of greenhouse gasses and the effect goes deeper than many may wish to admit.
It is easy for organizations to focus on the direct link of pollutants and air quality and the risk of respiratory illness.
While this is an important risk in modern America, the health implications of greenhouse gasses and climate change go further. These gasses are warming the atmosphere and affecting weather and rainfall.
The combined risk of vector-borne illness, drought, floods, and heat waves show that rises in asthma and breathing issues are just the start.