- On Wednesday, 434,000 doctors launched a campaign to describe how global warming affects health in the US
- The report includes a map of the US showing the biggest issues in each region
- It includes rising levels of air pollution to increased water contamination and a widening range for disease-carrying mosquitoes
More than half the nation’s doctors have joined forces to urge policymakers to take make climate change a priority.
On Wednesday, more than 434,000 physicians – including family doctors, pediatricians, obstetricians, allergists, geriatricians and internists – launched a campaign to describe how global warming affects health.
The report includes a map of the United States, detailing the biggest concerns in each region – from rising levels of air pollution to increased water contamination and a widening range for disease-carrying mosquitoes.
It also features personal accounts from doctors who have seen the impact of environmental factors first-hand.
The coalition, dubbed the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, consists of doctors from 11 different medical groups.
Their aim is to help policy makers understand the health dangers of global warming, and what must be done to guard against it in the coming years.
‘Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,’ said Mona Sarfaty, a physician and director of the new consortium.
‘Physicians are on the frontlines and see the impacts in exam rooms. What’s worse is that the harms are felt most by children, the elderly, Americans with low-income or chronic illnesses, and people in communities of color.’
The group is releasing a report that highlights the ways climate change affects health, and calls for a speedy transition to clean renewable energy.
The report, called Medical Alert! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health, will be circulated to members of the Republican-dominated Congress.
Some of its key warnings relate to heart and breathing problems associated with increasing wildfires and air pollution, as well as injury from extreme heat events.
Infectious diseases can spread more widely as ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitoes with West Nile virus expand their range.
Extreme weather, such as hurricanes and droughts, may become more common, destroying not only homes and livelihoods but also wreaking havoc on people’s mental health, it warned.
Most Americans are not aware that increases in asthma attacks and allergies are linked to climate change, according to the report.
A poll from 2014 suggested that only one in four Americans could name even one way in which climate change is harming our health.
People are not powerless, the group urged. They can push for a quicker transition to renewable solar and wind energy, and also do what they can to walk and bike more instead of driving.
‘Here’s the message from America’s doctors on climate change: it’s not only happening in the Arctic Circle, it’s happening here,’ said Sarfaty.
‘It’s not only a problem for us in 2100, it’s a problem now. And it’s not only hurting polar bears, it’s hurting us.’
ISAAC’S STORY: DOCTOR SLAMS CLIMATE CHANGE AFTER HER SON WAS HOSPITALIZED IN HEAT WAVE
By Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, Lead Author, American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy on Climate Change; Pediatric Associates of Alexandria
My nine-year-old son Isaac was attending his last day of band camp when I received a call from the emergency room.
He had collapsed in the heat, and was rushed to the emergency room.
When my husband arrived at the hospital, Isaac was on a gurney with an IV in his arm, recovering under the watchful eyes of nurses and doctors. It was a terrifying experience for him.
That day was part of a record-setting heatwave in Washington, DC, one of several days that summer when the heat index reached over 120 degrees.
As a pediatrician, I know that Isaac is not alone in his vulnerability to the heat.
Emergency room visits for heat illnesses increased by 133 percent between 1997 and 2006.
Almost half of these patients were children and adolescents. In August 2010, another record hot summer, a colleague treated Logan, a young football player, in Arkansas.
He showed initial signs of heat illness—weakness and fatigue—during practice in his un-airconditioned gym, but he wasn’t treated right away. He subsequently developed heat stroke, kidney failure and pulmonary edema.
Fortunately, kidney dialysis saved him, but it was a close call.
Every summer, I see the impacts of increasing temperature and heat waves on children like Logan, and warn parents of the dangers of increasing heat waves.
I believe it’s imperative that pediatricians on the frontlines of this urgent problem speak out for children on issues that will harm the health and prosperity of our youngest generations.
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