Earlier this week, the Obama administration released a new report on climate change that focused on how environmental changes will impact our health. The three-year scientific assessment called upon some 100 experts, and is one of the most comprehensive looks to date at forthcoming public health issues that have not been widely discussed.
“The polls show that most people in the U.S. don’t even realize that there are health effects of climate change,” says John Balbus, M.D., senior advisor for public health to the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who lead-authored two of the nine chapters. “The report addresses a very common lack of knowledge.” Here, Balbus walks us through four major areas from the study that may impact your day-to-day life.
A New Approach to Allergies
Scientists have observed a change in the seasons—warmer winters, earlier springs, later falls—that has prolonged pollen season. At the same time, there is some evidence that rising CO2 levels have altered some ragweed pollen itself, perhaps making it more allergenic. “The main thing to do is to make sure patients are aware about bad air-pollution days,” Balbus says. In practical terms, this may eventually mean forgoing your outdoor run on certain days when advised or upping your indoor-gym membership, and investing in a HEPA filter air purifier that removes contaminants and allergens to maintain better conditions inside your home.