Climate change and the impact on public health is often mentioned as an important challenge in terms of protecting earthlings against health risks factors. For example, inside EU a strategy was adopted in 2007 and this strategy is proposing to take action on climate change in order to prevent different changes that may occur on humans health. Accordingly, the European Commission took the initiative for a document entitled ‘The aspects of adaptation to climate change from a health perspective’, which depicts the effects of climate change on our health.
This is a global problem, not only applicable to the EU. Other countries adopted similar strategies, too.
Humans are weather sensitive beings, reacting differently to climatic elements.
Weather sensitivity is defined by the body’s sensitivity to atmospheric changes.
There are four distinct types of weather sensitivity in humans:
- weather adaptability – easy accommodation to climate fluctuations
- weather dependents – those who feel climatic influences on the psychic level but also in terms of health disorders manifested by irritability, headaches, or depression
- weather predictors – those who can foresee climate changes after feeling various changes in their own bodies
- weather sensitives – those who are suffering from diseases such as rheumatism
Ambient atmosphere and human health are linked to climate and the bioclimatic comfort. The most important climatic elements that have visible effects on our health are temperature, humidity, precipitation, air movements, pressure, and solar radiation.
The human body perceives the climatic change through peripheral nerve receptors of the skin, of the retina, or of the respiratory system. The information is transmitted to the central nervous system where it is analyzed, affecting the endocrine glands, the cortex, and nervous system. Each reacts differently depending on the age of the body, immune system capability, or diseases and illnesses.
Temperature effects on our health
Temperature has a big impact on the human body. Homeostasis is the property of human body to regulate the temperature between normal limits. Homeostasis is controlled by the hypothalamus which is a small brain center.
The positive or negative modification is received on the skin temperature, being dependent on the amount of water that is retained in the body.
Body surface area, age, external temperature and endocrine glands condition based metabolic rate that is the body’s normal heat production.
Depending on age, the reactions are different when sudden temperature changes occur. The elders and the children whose immune systems are not working at full don’t tolerate extreme heat, favoring the emergence of various diseases such as flu.
Extreme heat produces the so-called ‘heat stress’ which forces the body to eliminate water and salts through sweat, leading to exhaustion and fatigue.
Diseases caused by heat stress are often cardiovascular (myocardial infarction and cerebrovascular accidents) being triggered by an increased heart rate, dilation of blood vessels, decreasing the blood pressure, and even the appearance of collapse. Dizziness may also appear. Other consequences may be the thermal shock, intestinal infections, heat syncope (loss of memory or even delusional state), and sunstroke or dehydration.
Stress caused by extremely low temperatures affect people with low immunity, generally elderly, newborns, alcoholics or people with other diseases. Intervening factors that influence the adaptability to such low temperatures are diets, volume of body fat, or genre (studies shown that women have a higher body temperature than men).
Decreasing temperatures can cause hypothermia causing irreversible disorders of the body, such as muscle rigidity and irregular heartbeat leading to cardiac arrest.
Air humidity effects on our health
The air humidity has a huge impact on humans health. The effects of climate changes on our health are linked to air humidity variations, too.
Relative air humidity (used in thermal comfort indices) and vapor pressure ( a component of the formulation of skin stress) are the parameters that define the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.
A warm air mass can contain a larger amount of water than a mass of cold air. Moisture is favoring the development of certain species of bacteria and viruses such as tuberculosis bacillus.
Pulmonary stress can also occur when a number of water vapors reduce tendency manifested by dehydration or molecular concentration of the blood.
Wind effects on our health
Wind effect on the body is negative corroborating with temperature and pressure variations. Warm, dry and full with positive ions winds cause hormonal disorders manifested by loss of self-control and increased nervousness leading to a large number of crimes.
Winds stimulate cutaneous nerves, cause increased sweating, increase circulation that negatively affects on pulmonary tuberculosis, bronchial asthma, angina, rheumatism, and epilepsy, causing irritability, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and even lethargy.
Atmospheric electricity effects on our health
The air electricity intensity field is of 50-80 V in summer and 80-120 V in winter and in the case of cloudy days it increases to 450 V.
When the atmosphere is charged with positive ions during a low-pressure climatic condition it causes the weakening of the body’s resistance to microbial attack, leading to a headache, joints pains, muscles pains, insomnia, fatigue, asthma attacks, and cardiovascular diseases (hypertension)
Solar radiation effects on our health
Solar radiation is a type of electromagnetic waves that produces harmful physiological effects due to the permeability of tissues.
The infrared radiation is essential for life, increasing the activity of white blood cells, accelerating the metabolism by acting on blood pressure and pulse.
The human body can not absorb the whole amount of infrared radiation, though. When is exceeded appear burns, heat collapse, heat shock, sunstroke, damage of the retina, vascular congestion of the spleen, kidneys lesions, and respiratory tract lesions.
Extreme UV radiation effects lead to sunburns, inflammation of the skin, inflammation of the eyelid, cataract, damage to the hair, or skin cancers.
Natural disasters effects on our health
Climate changes reverberate in many ways on the planet Earth.
Floods and heavy rainfall have been correlated to a high number of diseases outbreaks transmitted by water, following mobilization of pathogens, or wide-scale contamination of the water due to the overflow of water from the sewerage network. The reduction in water flow during the hot summer days can cause high potential for bacterial and chemical contamination.
Massive earthquakes can cause a lot of issues and casualties even after the Earth’s shook stopped. For example, the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011 could have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths if it wouldn’t have been contained in time by the authorities.
Air quality effects on our health
While in recent decades the levels of air pollution were reduced significantly, the health risks of air pollution, especially when speaking of the ozone layer, are still significant.
However, it is likely that future policies on the air quality and the climate change effects on our health, to reduce the evolution of respiratory diseases and the mortality that is caused by them.
Airborne allergens are also affecting air quality and our health. Indoor air quality and outdoor air pollution level and the levels of air allergens, such as pollen or mold, could have a big negative impact on our health.
The population at risk include the children and the elderly. In addition, people already suffering from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergies or severe chronic pulmonary obstruction will be exposed to a particularly high risk.
Migration due to the climate changes effects on our health
Climate change impacts on national economies, available food, and water available, as well as increasing the levels of the planetary oceans will more likely intensify global migration.
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