Living environment with good quality may have positive influences on people. But devaluation of our environment, caused by pollution of air, water and soil contamination, radiation, noise, chemical substances and many other factors could have also a negative impacts not just on environment but also on ourselves and on human health.
“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”
New phenomenon such as change of climate, loss of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, which are induced mainly by humans, have big and long term impacts on human health and their well-being.
The climate is changing very quickly and brings extreme weather events such as heat-waves, storms, floods, ice melting, sea level rising, solar radiation, droughts, cyclones, and many other impacts. These factors impact on our health and create also food and water shortages, air pollution, loss of homes and livelihoods, mass migration, suffering and deaths. Climate, which affects weather conditions, has a significant role on people´s health. The climate change is one of the greatest health threats we face. In general, the climate change doesn´t bring many new or unrecognized threats, but it will arise some important impacts between environment and people´s health, which will be considerably stronger and more evident in the future then it is actually. People are influenced directly by heat and cold or indirectly by changing of people´s behavior (people are forced to move from their homes because of many environmental, social, economic and other reasons), by the growing frequency of contagious diseases transmitted by vectors or nutrition and so on.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. The impacts will be felt all around the world — and not just in some distant future but in our lifetimes and those of our children.”
— The Lancet, 2009
The main problems caused by climate change are:
Deaths and illnesses
Around 150 000 deaths each year in the world are due to climate change. Deaths are caused by malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and flooding. People are suffering and dying also because of extreme heat-waves and rising temperatures every year. Warmer temperatures cause warmer days and more frequent heat-waves. In Europe, there were 70 000 deaths in 2003 caused by heat-waves. This number will rise, there will be 30 000 of people dying every year by the end of thirties and 50000 – 110 000 in eighties.
Infections transmitted by nutrition and vectors
Infections transmitted by nutrition will be transmitted more and more often in dependence on rising temperatures. A good example is Salmonella. Infections and diseases related to transmission by vectors (e.g. malaria) are transmitted mainly by mosquitos and ticks. Because of rising temperatures, they are spreading geographically to the north and may cause appearance of new diseases in the new countries.
Problems related to water
Besides of floods, there are many other important problems related to water. There is an increase of diseases and infections transmitted by water because of its contamination. Lack of access to good quality of drinking water, contaminated water use for drinking and bathing, inadequate sanitation, may have significant consequences on human health.
Quality of air
Pollution of air may damage human health by respiration and cause lung cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The major pollutants are industries, power plants, traffic and transportation, agriculture and households. The most serious consequences of climate change are likely to be in relation to ozone, which is the most pollutant substance in the air.
Solar and ultraviolet radiation
Another indirect impact on health caused by climate change is changing of ultraviolet radiation. The higher temperatures influence the selections of clothing and amount of time spent outdoors and potentially increase of human exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
“Climate change threatens our fragile existence on this planet.”
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank
To prevent these consequences on human health we need early warning systems, efficient health services mainly for uneducated, poor, old and young people and some efficient restrictions and norms to reduce the negative impacts on our environment and human health.
Author: Janka Suľová