Climate Change and Health
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Climate change means changes in current normal climate conditions, such as temperature, rain/snowfall, extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
Climate change is expected to result in warmer temperatures, longer and hotter summers, more frequent and/or more severe weather events such as hurricanes/tornadoes, thunderstorms, wildfires, floods and droughts. Climate change is likely to impact most areas of our lives, including our health. (Government of Canada, 2018)
Windsor and Essex County’s (WEC) Changing Climate
WEC has experienced the impacts of climate change in recent years such as record levels of precipitation and severe storms, which have led to widespread flooding events. There have also been periods of extended heat and the annual blue-green algae bloom in our lakes. These changes have also created ideal conditions for the survival of invasive mosquito species and a greater presence of insects that carry diseases not commonly found in our region. We are the first region in Canada to identify adult Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, and have had evidence of the presence of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes since 2016. Both of these mosquitoes are vectors for viruses not normally seen in Canada, such as Zika, Dengue fever, and Chikungunya.
Who is going to be affected by climate change?
Everyone will feel the effects of climate change but the health risks related to climate change are higher for certain groups (such as older adults, infants, young children, people with pre-existing heart conditions or respiratory illnesses, and those who are experiencing homelessness).
How does climate change affect our health?
Climate change can impact our health in the following ways:
- More heat warnings during summer can cause heat-related illness and hospitalizations.
- Poor air quality can make it harder to breathe, cause throat or lung irritation, or produce new or worsening episodes of your current heart or lung conditions.
- Increase in temperatures, rainfall and humidity can lead to increase in the presence and number of vectors that carry diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease in our area.
- More exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to skin/eye damage and even some cancers.
- More extreme weather (e.g., tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flooding) can cause injuries and illnesses, as well as community-wide emergencies.
- Changing weather will also affect water safety and food safety, as well as destroy crops and lead to disruptions in food production and distribution.
What are we doing about climate change?
The WECHU has already started to address, manage and respond to the effects of a changing climate. The Health Unit has begun the process of conducting a Climate Change and Health Vulnerability Assessment. The assessment will provide local evidence and understanding of the linkages between climate change and health within the WEC, identify interventions, and respond to system gaps. The data from this assessment will help to develop action plans for various health impacts for our region.