A new study presented this week at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) Annual Congress in Amsterdam found that climate change could have profound affect on global health and international fatality levels.
News of the study’s findings comes just days after the U.S. Senate voted to pass the TRAIN Act, legislation that will block the EPA’s proposed standards to control mercury and power plant pollution.
Using emission scenarios and models to assess the health impacts of a changing climate, predicted that Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal will see the biggest climate-induced increase in ozone-related deaths over the next 60 years.
Tropospheric, or ground-level, ozone forms primarily from reactions between two major classes of air pollutants: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). According to the EPA, VOCs and NOx are emitted by cars, gas stations, oil based paints, power plants, industrial plants, and other sources.
Temperature increases caused by climate change will only exacerbate ozone air pollution, as these reactions depend on the presence of heat and sunlight.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change that has occurred since the 1970s caused over 140,000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004. In addition to its impact on clean air, drinking water and crop production, many deadly diseases such as malaria and those which cause diarrhea are particularly sensitive to climate change.
“Outdoor air pollution is the biggest environmental threat in Europe,” said Professor Marc Decramer, President of the ERS. “If we do not act to reduce levels of ozone and other pollutants, we will see increased hospital admissions, extra medication and millions of lost working days. As part of the European Respiratory Roadmap, which was launched last month, the ERS is calling for a collaborative approach between health professionals and policy makers, to protect vulnerable populations from the damaging effects air pollutants can have.”
Image Credit: Flickr – NASA Goddard