Surviving the Storm: Weather Impacts on Health

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As frequency of weather extremes and temperatures rise, public health threats become greater. Violent crime, suicide and workplace injuries increase because of heat. Outdoor workers also have a higher risk of kidney disease. Meanwhile, warmer nights leading to interrupted sleep can cause cardiovascular disease or depression.

Howard Frumkin, professor at University of Washington, also advised those with underlying diseases to have appropriate medications on hand. That’s because heat can also amplify air pollution. Those with obstructive lung disease, asthma and more are all affected. He also made it apparent that having access to enclosed spaces with purified air is helpful.

Extended warmth also expands the season of disease carrying insects and ticks and increases food and water borne diseases. In addition, impacts are felt from lengthening and strengthening allergy seasons. Frumkin pointed out that those changes are notably taking place further north than further south.

Frumkin also broke down the impacts to our food supply. Direct effects include reduce production of crops and changes to nutrient values. He also pointed out indirect effects such as loss of soil fertility. Increased pest activity also means that farmers will have a harder time getting their crops to grow.

There are two ways to dramatically decrease health impacts due to weather. The first way to protect people is through adaptation, such as heat wave preparedness. The second is through mitigation. This can be achieved through clean energy, well designed cities and healthy sustainable diets.

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