Welcome to our May Wrap-Up publication. This reading will zero-in on a different, yet unique sector of medicine! We will be focusing on the impact of climate change of pediatric lung health.
Recently, the American Lung Association published an article of how climate change increases the risk of human lung health, especially for children. It is estimated that over 35 million people in the United States suffer from recurring lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema (breathlessness), and lung cancer, and a multitude of other respiratory diseases and failures (ALA, 2022).
The Inverse Correlation between Climate Change and Likeliness of Developing Respiratory Diseases
It is evident that when temperatures increase, more pollution occurs. This is the case for an air pollutant, known as smog or ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone accumulates when families of nitrogen oxides form a chemical reaction with other reactants, such as sunlight. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2022).
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports that smog accumulation is likely to be more frequent within the next few decades as precipitation levels are likely predicted to decrease within regions, such as Southern North America, Northern South America, Western Europe, North Africa, and Eastern Australia.
These decreased precipitation levels also produce an increased probability for wildfires–another huge problem coming from a health standpoint, as this also directly correlates toward the population’s likelihood to have negative impacts of particle pollution (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023). Let’s pause right there for a second.
→ What is particle pollution?
Particle pollution (PM), or particulate matter, include a multitude of small and large types of particles that can have a strong impact on one’s respiratory health and can include dust, dirt, smoke, or soot. It is also important to note that PMs have been recognized as carcinogens by the World Health Organization since 2013.
Coarse (large) particles fall within the range of approximately 10 microns. Scientifically, these particles are commonly referred to as PM10. These are extremely small values, that are microscopic, thinner than a strand of human hair, that is about 70 microns and we are unable to see them with our human naked eyes! But they sure do have a strong impact on the health of our lungs!
Ultrafine particles are typically within the range of 2.5 microns and also have an extremely strong impact on the health of our lungs (American Lung Association, 2022).
→ So, what are the long term impacts of particulate matter on human respiratory health?
To reiterate, A LOT! Aside from a pulmonology (study of lungs) perspective, comes many other associations on human health impacts, neurologically, psychologically, and cardiovascularly. This includes..:
Large impact on the CNS (central nervous system)
Large impact on the human endocrine system (reproductive health)
Patients being more prone to pulmonary disease
Ophthalmological diseases (glaucoma)
Additionally, the EEA estimates that 307,000 premature deaths were associated with various harmful levels of PM within the 27 member nations of the European Union alone.
→ We’ve heard about the damage, therefore, what is being done?
Luckily, there have been a multitude of initiatives brought about by both the EEA (European Environmental Agency) and guidelines tailored by the WHO (World Health Organization), such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan, which has instituted a goal of reducing the number of deaths caused by PM (specifically PM2.5), which has been trajected to be fulfilled by the year 2032 (The European Environmental Agency, 2023).
Additionally, the United Kingdom, India, and about 24 other nations have actively collaborated and launched the Clean Green Initiative, or abbreviated (CGI) at the 2021 COP26 conference, to support clean, sustainable ways of building infrastructure to cities across the globe (Gov.UK, 2023).
Additionally, at COP26, the African Development Bank launched a multibillion-dollar initiative to tackle climate change within the continent and promote a sense of sustainable growth across nations, known as the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), the Empowering Youth for Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Climate Adaptation, and Resilience, to financially support over 10,000 subject-matter experts and create jobs for young teenagers and youth groups, making change in climate resilience (African Development Bank Group, 2023).
→ A short and sweet conclusion
The less particles, the better our health.
The more ingenuity, integrity, and creativity, the better the tomorrow.